CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Miami may be the farthest the Blue Devils have to travel this regular season, but for Vernon Carey Jr., Saturday evening’s matchup provided him an opportunity to feast on some home cooking.
Playing less than an hour from his high school, Carey continued his dominant freshman campaign with a 24-point, nine-rebound performance to lead the second-ranked Blue Devils to a 95-62 win against the Hurricanes at the Watsco Center. The Blue Devils’ fiery offensive effort rivaled the heat of the Florida sunshine as Duke shot 62 percent in the first half and 59.7 percent overall in the blowout.
Carey wasn’t the only Duke player shooting with a magnetic ball Saturday. Fellow freshman Cassius Stanley added 20 points in the contest on an efficient 8-of-11 performance from the field.
"He’s been extremely poised. That’s the thing I’m most proud of him. Even if he made a mistake or missed a shot, he doesn’t get frantic," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said about Carey. "He just plays every play. They put him in some tough defensive situations that he eventually did well in, but that's the next step for him. But offensively, he was outstanding.
"He's got great hands. His dad was a lineman and his kid would have probably been a tight end or something because he can catch and he can pass. He's a good basketball player. He's not just a big guy."
From the beginning of the night, the usually daunting ACC road environment had more of a friendly feel. Duke blue was heavily sprinkled throughout the crowd, and Carey got a warm ovation during player introductions.
The Southwest Ranches, Fla., native missed a layup and picked up a foul in the opening minute, but those would be the lone blemishes on Carey’s ledger. The 6-foot-10 center would not miss the rest of the first half, converting his next five attempts as the Blue Devils (13-1, 3-0 in the ACC) opened up a 50-36 halftime edge.
"It was pretty cool I guess, but I’m just focused on winning with my teammates and on playing really well as a team collectively, so I think we did a good job of that," Carey said of returning home. "It’s just another game for me, but I get to see my friends after this, so that’s something to look forward to."
Duke built upon its momentum from a Matthew Hurt buzzer-beater to end the first frame, embarking on a 22-12 run out of the locker room to put any chances of a stunning upset to rest.
Stanley initiated the Blue Devil attack with the team’s first seven points, while the rest of the team started 0-for-5. Despite the freshman guard's torrid start, nine first-half turnovers from Duke allowed the Hurricanes (9-3, 1-2) to stick around, and the Blue Devils held a mere 28-25 advantage with 8:34 remaining in the first half.
Miami appeared to catch a break when Tre Jones picked up his second foul less than 10 minutes into the contest. However, Jordan Goldwire would not give in to the pesky 5-foot-7 Chris Lykes in his absence. With Jones out the remainder of the half, Goldwire was instrumental in holding the Hurricane’s offensive leader to a dismal 2-for-9 performance in the first half. Lykes was once again locked down out of the break and finished with just eight points.
"Goldwire was a key guy tonight when Tre got his second foul," Krzyzewski said. "I’ll play a guy with two fouls in the first half, but when I took him out, I thought I’d bring him back with about five minutes to go. [Goldwire] was doing such a good job that we were able not to do that."
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With its first win of 2020 in the books, the Blue Devils will look to continue their strong start to conference play Wednesday when they travel to Atlanta to battle Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets took down North Carolina earlier Saturday evening.