What started off as a strong start for the Georgetown Hoyas, slowly became a race against time.
The Hoyas dashed in front of the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils to begin the 2K Empire Class championship game. The Blue Devils eventually settled in and took the lead in the second half. Duke remained in reach, but Georgetown’s attempts to close the gap fell short, as the clock wound down. The Blue Devils staved off the upset-minded Hoyas, winning 81-73 on Friday night.
”We struggled coming up here to New York, but I thought that we played with energy, effort, and purpose,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “For the most part, we shared the ball. Tonight was a tough go--Duke, they’re a great team, very well coached. Coach K is one of the best in the business. It’s hard to win when you turn it over 24 times, when you give them 19 offensive rebounds.”
Turnovers fueled the hot second half start by Duke, who broke a 33-33 halftime stalemate and snatched the lead.
Whenever Georgetown looked like it would finally get the shot it needed to jumpstart itself in the second half, the Blue Devils closed off any momentum-building opportunities with a quick response of their own, whether it be a three-pointer or a couple of free throws.
”Knowing we had to come out strong in the second half, I saw they came out a little lazy and tried to get a spark we needed,” Duke’s Tre Jones said.
Jones had a hand in each of the Blue Devils’ first three buckets after the break, getting his team going and the Blue Devil fans excited.
Duke had a combined 32 points off of second-chance opportunities and Georgetown turnovers. The Blue Devils pushed their lead to as high as 14, after Cassius Stanley made a three-pointer with 4:59 remaining in the game.
Georgetown managed to trim the deficit down to as low as four, but by then it was too late.
All-tournament selections James Akinjo and Omer Yurtseven led the Hoyas. Yurtseven had a game-high 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Akinjo finished with 19 points and six assists.
For Duke, Stanley led the Blue Devils with 21 points and eight boards. Vernon Carey Jr. was named the Most Valuable Player and impressed with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. Wendell Moore added 17 points towards the winning effort. Jones chipped in 13 points and seven assists.
Georgetown drops to 4-2 overall and will resume action next Saturday, at home, against UNC Greensboro.
Three takeaways from the Duke-Georgetown game:
Positives in the Negatives
There was plenty of frustration from the Hoya sideline, bench, and fans throughout Madison Square Garden, particularly surrounding the officiating.
Ewing got a technical foul at one point, and was held back by a couple of assistants.
”I was just disappointed in the way that it was going,” Ewing said of what led to the technical foul. “They took 29 free throws. I know we took 18, but I think it just got caught up at the end. I was disappointed in that, and I thought that a couple of calls didn’t go our way that should have went our way.”
He later continued: “I’m not going to cry about the whistle, it is what it is, but we were up 12 in the first half and then Omer Yurtseven got his second foul and we had to take him out. We were still up, but everything just went bottoms up. The momentum swung. They started getting most of the calls, and it just changed. We were fortunate enough to tie it at halftime and the mistakes that we made coming back into the second half hurt us.”
Regardless of the loss in the 2K Empire Classic, Ewing is walking away pleased with the Hoyas’ trip to New York. Although they entered with a 3-1 record on Thursday, they didn’t look stellar in their victories and definitely disappointed against Penn State. However, Georgetown has put together its best showing to date in its two-day stay at New York.
”The whole trip is something we can build on,” Ewing said. “Everyone that we ahve on our team is capable of playing and playing well. We went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the country and had our opportunities to win the ball game, and we beat the No. 22 ranked team yesterday. There are a whole lot of things to build on, and I think that our future is bright.”
The moment Yurtseven finds a way to curb his rate of fouling, he will be an unstoppable force once he does so. His biggest enemy seems to be himself, and that was apparent throughout the 2K Empire Classic. He was consistently in foul trouble through both games, but he was able to stay on the floor for most of the second half against Duke and looked good as he did so.
”That’s what I’m hoping for, counting on,” Ewing said of Yurtseven eventually being able to minimize fouls. “He’s a load in there, there’s not that many people who can guard him one-on-one. He just has to stay out of foul trouble.”
He’s looked solid throughout the season thus far, proving to be a double-double machine, when he can stay on the court. He continued that strong play against the top-ranked team in the country. Yurtseven was a menace in the post, showing off the ability to finish in traffic, hit short turnaround elbow jumpers, and be an asset, as the Hoyas tried to claw their way back into the game. He finished with a game-high 21 points on an efficient 9-of-13 shooting. Yurtseven didn’t have that many rebounds, with only five, but the Cal and Duke games both showed the difference in approach that opposing teams take depending on when he’s on the floor and the kind of attention he draws to himself down low.
Vernon Carey, Big Boy
It was another impressive performance for Duke’s 6-foot-10 freshman. Carey bruised his way to another solid game in front of 40-plus NBA scouts and representatives over the last two nights.
He demolished the California Golden Bears on Thursday night, with an early career-high 31 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks in just 22 minutes of action. Now, against Georgetown, he dialed up another solid game, with a team-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.