By: Mark Wilson
The Duke Blue Devils put their No. 1 ranking on the line against the 4-1 Georgetown Hoyas Friday night at the Empire Classic Championship Game at Madison Square Garden. After beating the Texas Longhorns to advance Thursday night, the Hoyas had to await their next opponent. In the double-header, Duke University made light work out of the previously unbeaten Cal to advance to the title game.
From the tip-off, it was all Georgetown as they raced out to a 12-5 lead with 15:25 left in the first half. The Hoyas managed to extend that lead to 10 points with a little more than 8 minutes left in the first half. However, Duke was able to make a run of their own and get themselves back in the game right before the half due to some questionable fouls called on Georgetown.
With McClung (6 points) on the bench after picking up his third foul with less than 4 minutes to go until halftime, Duke rode the exceptional play of Vernon Carey as Duke and Georgetown went into the locker rooms tied at a 33.
With the officiating playing a huge role, both teams committed 10 fouls with an array of charges. The Devils were led in the first half by Vernon Carey as he led the way with 16 points and five rebounds. The Hoyas were led by James Akinjo with 12 points. The Hoyas were able to take advantage beyond the three-point while shooting 57.1 %.
The second half began with the Blue Devils scoring the first six points before the Hoyas were able to get on the board. From there it was all Duke. Cassius Stanley and Tre Jones controlled the backcourt production with Stanley scoring 21 points and Jones chipping in with 13 points and 7 assists. The Hoyas tried to respond with the inside game of Omer Yurtseven who finished with 21 points (all in the 2nd half).
The crowd was on the edge of their seats as it was a mixture of support for both teams. This contest brought back that old feel of the classic Big East/ACC contests from the late ’90s and early 2000’s. Heck, even Patrick Ewing electrified the Garden as he drew a technical foul and had to be restrained by his coaching staff over a ghost of a call in the second half.
But Duke was too strong and would not allow Georgetown to get close enough for the upset.