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No. 1 Duke Bluedevils win the 2019 Empire Classic

NEW YORK CITY. The Empire Classic is back and this year hosts some of the best basketball teams in the country. Coming off of an impressive win vs the #22nd nationally-ranked Texas Longhorns, head coach Patrick Ewing brought a young and scrappy Georgetown Hoyas team to his former home, Madison Square Garden. They faced legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Bluedevils, who blew out the Cal Golden Bears in the semifinals the day before. The last time these two teams faced each other at the Empire Classic Championship it was 2015 where Duke came out victorious.

History would repeat itself as Duke defeated Georgetown 81-73 in front of a capacity crowd. Although most of the spectators looked to be sporting Duke paraphernalia, there were a lot more Georgetown Hoyas fans than expected. Each team was prepared for battle but in the end, it was Duke who would prevail. Led by freshman Cassius Stanley’s 21 points and 8 rebounds, Duke was able to get the job done. Vernon Carey Jr. also chipped in 20 points of his own.

Georgetown’s big man Omer Yurtseven made things difficult for Duke by pouring in 21 points while his teammate James Akinjo had 19. In the end, the game came down to which team showed more poise. Duke easily broke Georgetown’s full-court pressure and scored easily time and time again.

Initially, Georgetown came out hot utilizing their combination of size and athleticism. Sophomore guard Mac McClung shot the ball well and helped Georgetown earn a double-digit lead in the first half. Late in the first half Duke climbed back into the game and never looked back. Vernon Carey Jr. was a force to be reckoned with in the paint while Cassius Stanley was a marksman from outside connecting on 3-3 from beyond the arc.

“We felt that we could be good defensively… We’ve devoted most of our practice time to defense and as a result, I think we’ve gotten tougher…”
-Coach K

Wendell Moore also was a catalyst in securing the W for Duke driving to the rim and get easy buckets on several occasions. He chipped in 17 points and 6 boards of his own.

Vernon Carey Jr. was selected the 2K Empire Classic MVP and will be a major problem for Duke’s opposition this year. If everything goes according to plan he will surely be a lottery pick in the next NBA draft. His combination of size and athleticism is unprecedented and definitely makes him a tough cover for anybody in the country. This year’s Duke team will have to work for every win they can get. This year they don’t have the instant offense players that they had in the past but with Coach K at the helm anything is possible. Stay Tuned.

By Cal Griffin: Writer for PureSportsNY

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