SYRACUSE — Vernon Carey Jr. deserves a trip to Disney World after dominating area college basketball fans’ version of the Super Bowl on Saturday night.
Carey Jr. scored 26 points and hauled in 17 rebounds to lead No. 8/9 Duke to a 97-88 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over the Syracuse University men’s basketball team in front of 31,458 fans at the Carrier Dome, marking the largest on-campus crowd in the NCAA this season.
Marek Dolezaj scored a career-high 22 points to lead four players in double figures for the Orange (13-9 overall, 6-5 ACC), which was held to a 6-for-26 mark on 3-point field goals.
SU will get a week of rest before its next game against Wake Forest at 8 p.m. next Saturday in the same location.
“He’s strong he uses his size very well on the glass,” Dolezaj said of Carey Jr. “He missed a couple times but he’s going to get the ball again. He’s young but he was a lot of trouble for us.”
Dolezaj added: “The (opposing) big guy has been hurting us all season, no matter who we play. I think we did a decent job on the shooters today, but we need to just go back and just fight.”
Carey Jr. — the 6-foot-10 and 270-pound freshman center for the Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2) — finished 9-for-14 from the field and 8-for-10 from the foul line to improve on his ACC-leading field goal percentage of .595. He produced his 10th double-double of the season and eighth game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Carey Jr. finished with 14 points and nine boards in the second half to fend off a series of SU comeback bids, providing the heartbreaker to end a run and momentarily silence the frenzied SU fans when he finished off an alley-oop to extend Duke’s lead to 86-76 with two minutes left.
“He’s real good but everybody is good against us, we’ve made a lot of big guys into All-Americans this year,” SU coach Jim Boeheim said of his team’s interior defense. “They’ve all averaged about 24 points and 10 rebounds against us, it’s hard to pick one out because they’re all doing the same thing. ... We just can’t stop people in there. The zone has traditionally been able to stop people inside but we can’t. We’re just not big enough in there.”
Elijah Hughes scored 22 points but shot just 6-for-19 from the field and 1-for-9 from deep. Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim added 17 and 13 points, respectively, and were held to a combined 8-for-27 shooting performance overall and 5-for-17 from behind the 3-point arc.
Duke played strong pressure defense on SU’s guards and worked to deny the Orange from deep throughout the game. SU finished with its worst 3-point shooting percentage (.231) since posting a .172 mark in its season-opening loss to Virginia.
The Blue Devils have allowed just one opponent to make 10-or-more 3-pointers this season.
“I think we got some good looks, two or three that I know I would take any day,” Buddy Boeheim said. “That’s a really good defensive team, we’ve been trying to get inside more and focus around the basket, but that’s a really good defensive team and we knew that going in. They kept their good defenders out there and they were staying on us outside, and that’s what teams are doing, they’re not leaving me or (Girard) to help when (Hughes) drives, so there weren’t really any drive-and-kick options.”
Cassius Stanley scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, making 5 of 6 shot attempts after halftime, and contributed two 3-point plays in the final three minutes to help the Blue Devils maintain their advantage.
Tre Jones added 17 points and six assists, including a 10-for-10 performance at the foul line for Duke, while Matthew Hurt and Alex O’Connell added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
SU and Duke played in front of 30,000 fans in the Dome for the fifth straight time dating back to 2014. Last year’s matchup established the NCAA on-campus attendance record of 35,642.
Prior to tip-off, an eight-second moment of silence was held to honor NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Bryant, who wore No. 8 for the early portion of his pro career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a tragic helicopter crash that also killed his daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers last Sunday in California.