NEW YORK—In danger of an upset to the unranked Hoyas, the Blue Devils needed their leader to step up. Immediately out of the locker room after a subpar first half, Jones did just that.
Georgetown forward Jamorko Pickett threw a lazy in-bound pass to open the second half and, unfortunately for him, Jones is anything but lazy. The Duke point guard sprinted forward to steal Pickett’s pass, taking the ball in stride for a lay-in to break the 33-33 tie. After a Hoya miss, Jones would get to the basket again, finishing off a give-and-go pass from Jack White for another bucket. The next Blue Devil possession, Jones found Vernon Carey Jr. on a perfectly executed alley-oop. Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing would call a timeout immediately after, his team now trailing 39-33.
In just 64 seconds, Duke went from upset watch to a comfortable lead, all thanks to Jones.
The top-ranked Blue Devils would hold onto the lead that came from the Jones-led outburst, defeating the Hoyas 81-73 in the 2K Empire Classic championship at Madison Square Garden. This is Duke's third time winning the 2K Classic, as the team has now won all its games in Madison Square Garden this season. After a first half marred by missed shots, fouls and turnovers, Duke followed its captain’s lead in the second half, looking energized and scoring efficiently, staying ahead of Georgetown for the rest of Friday night.
"The way we started the game was tough to come back from, especially with the atmosphere out there, a lot of Georgetown fans in the crowd," Jones said. "Knowing that we had to come out to a strong start in the second half, I just saw they were being a little lazy...and I was just trying to give my team the spark that we needed."
The Hoyas (4-2) would not go down quietly, hanging with the Blue Devils (6-0) for most of the night, led by 21 second-half points from Omer Yurtseven. However, 31 Georgetown fouls eventually caught up to the team, though the Duke advantage would dwindle to four in the final minute.
"[The Hoyas] have depth, they have really good guards," Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "[Omer] Yurtseven is really good. And if you double him, he can find somebody. He hit every shot down the stretch. For us though, we were okay that they were twos and not threes
A rarity in an era of college basketball that favors those that can put the ball on the floor and knock it down from beyond the arc, both Duke and Georgetown’s leading scorers coming into the teams’ matchup Friday night were burly centers that make their mark in the paint.
After picking up two early fouls, the 7-foot, 264-pound Hoya center Yurtseven became a complete non-factor in the first half, playing just six minutes and not picking up any points or rebounds in that span. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-10, 270-pound Carey feasted, with a game-high 16 points and five rebounds in the opening period, going back to work early a day after his 31-point effort against California.
The big man script flipped in the second half, as Carey scored just four points in the period, limited by foul trouble of his own. Yurtseven came into his own as the night progressed, scoring 14 points in the final 10 minutes, making the Blue Devil center look vulnerable on the defensive end for the first time since he battled Kansas behemoth Udoka Azubuike Nov. 5, also at Madison Square Garden.
"[Yurtseven] was, if not the same physical [level], arguably stronger than Udoka, just with his big body, but I was just trying to establish position first and be the aggressor," Carey said.
For the first time this year, Duke’s perimeter defense looked vulnerable, especially in the first half. Georgetown’s guards started the game on fire, propelling the Hoyas to a quick 9-2 lead. The Georgetown starting backcourt of James Akinjo and Mac McClung combined for 13 of its first 15 points. McClung would be quieted for the remainder of the contest, but Akinjo rode the hot start to a 19-point, six-assist effort.
The Blue Devils will get to return to Durham for the week of Thanksgiving, welcoming Stephen F. Austin and Winthrop to Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday and Friday, respectively, for a pair of non-conference matchups.
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