Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. scored 31 points as top-ranked Duke drubbed California 87-52 in the semifinals of the 2K Empire Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
It was the Blue Devils’ first game as the No. 1 team this season after moving atop the poll at the beginning of the week.
Duke had to rely on its defense until it could get its offense in order. Carey had 21 points by halftime and ended up shooting 11-for-18 from the field to go with 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. He has double-doubles in three consecutive games.
Duke (5-0) takes on Georgetown (4-1) in the tournament final Friday night. The Hoyas were an 82-66 winner against No. 22 Texas in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader. Texas and California meet in the consolation game.
Cassius Stanley poured in 11 points and Wendell Moore Jr. added 10 points. They’re also both freshmen for Duke, which made 10 of 27 of its 3-pointers. Seven players made at least one 3-pointer for the Blue Devils.
Kareem South’s eight points led California (4-1), which was outrebounded 50-28.
Duke shot 2-for-13 in the early going against California’s zone.
Twelve minutes into the game, the Bears trailed 18-11. Carey had 10 of Duke’s points by that stage.
Duke led 40-21 at halftime, so Carey matched the Bears’ point total.
California, which was playing away from home for the first time, shot 29.2 percent from the field in the first half.
Duke holds a 217-34 record under coach Mike Krzyzewski when playing with a No. 1 ranking. The win total in those situations matches the 217 games won by legendary UCLA coach John Wooden when his team was atop the rankings.
California was aiming for its first 5-0 start since the 2013-14 season, when it later toppled a top-ranked Arizona team.
—Field Level Media