DURHAM, NC – Vernon Carey Jr. had 26 points and 13 rebounds on Tuesday night when Duke # 9 defeated Pittsburgh 79-67 after both teams honored Kobe Bryant during a pregame ceremony at the Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The gloomy opening triggered a fierce battle on the court, in which duke coach Mike Krzyzewski broke out – towards his own fans.
The Hall of Fame coach was upset with Cameron Crazies, who led a playful vocal with Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel – a former Blue Devils player and assistant coach. Krzyzewski called to the fans: "Shut up!" And then came across the field at the end of the first half to insult them.
Before the prediction game, the Duke and Pitt players paid tribute to Bryant as they warmed up in t-shirts with purple and gold numerals 8 on the front and 24 on the back – the numbers that Bryant wore at the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning.
Krzyzewski trained Bryant when Team USA won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012.
"It was the last few days that were really emotional, Kobe was one of my players," Krzyzewski told reporters. “I trained him in three teams, he was my leader. We had special moments, privately and publicly. He was great with my grandchildren.
"It was bad. It was bad. I was very emotional, not public. And for the others involved, are you kidding me? Nine people. Terrible. So very tragic."
Bryant and Duke Alumnus and former ACC Commissioner Gene Corrigan, who passed away on Friday, were honored before the game. Krzyzewski, who coached Bryant as Team USA and won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, was stoic when his former player was honored.
Tre Jones contributed 14 points and Duncan Goldwire scored 13 when the Blue Devils (17-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their second game in a row after dropping consecutive decisions against Clemson and Louisville. Pitt (13-8, 4-6) was led by Au’Diese Toney with 27 points, but lost for the fourth time in six games.
The Blue Devils showed offensive balance in the first half when they used the Carey Attention Freshman Center, which was drawn to the color. Carey scored seven of Duke's first nine points, forcing Pittsburgh's normally strong defenses to let him in to deny him the ball and take his shots.
While Panthers' defenders focused on Carey, Duke's perimeter players took advantage of the open 3-point options. At half-time, Junior Guard Goldwire had a career high of three 3-points when Duke came in from the other side with 7 to 14 in the first half.
However, Pittsburgh had an angry rally in the second half when Duke temporarily lost his chance to score after a 60-42 lead. A 23: 8 run triggered by Tony's interior and exterior scoring brought the Panthers 4:26 into the 68:65 zone. But a pair of free throws from Matthew Hurt, a basket on the block from Carey, and a 3-pointer from Stanley restored a double-digit lead for Duke.