Rushed Reaction: #9 Duke 75, #2 Kentucky 68

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 14th, 2012

Brian Joyce is an RTC correspondent and can be reached at bjoyce_hoops. He filed this report from the Champions Classic in Atlanta tonight. 

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Experience and leadership matters – A veteran and experienced team had the composure to close out a tough victory, while the young and inexperienced squad just could not get the job done. If you’re looking for a theme for the night, that would be it. Seth Curry, Duke’s fifth-year senior guard, said the difference in having older players is they have “been in a situation like that before.” He went on to say that Duke’s core of veterans had “good composure. We stayed calm, and made plays.”  Meanwhile, Kentucky coach John Calipari commented simply that “we’re a November team right now.” The presence of leaders for Duke’s team and the void of experience on Kentucky’s roster was evident on Tuesday night.
  2. A solid inside-outside game prevails for Blue Devils – Duke torched the Wildcats from beyond the arc on 8-18 shooting, but a dominant force in the low post created space for open jumpers. Big man Mason Plumlee also dominated the Cats on the inside (7-8 FG for 18 points), drawing defenders away from the Blue Devils’ hot shooters. Curry lit the Wildcats up from outside three treys for a solid contribution of 23 points. Duke had the consistency to knock down those open shots, but they were open in part because of the work Plumlee had done in the low post. Kentucky’s poor defensive rotations will likely be a point of emphasis for the Cats moving forward.
  3. The emergence of Alex Poythress – Kentucky needed a scoring option to emerge, and it did in freshman Alex Poythress. After struggling against Maryland with just eight points, Poythress finished strong on Tuesday night with 20 points and eight boards on 9-12 shooting. The Cats had an advantage by stretching the floor and using their athleticism, but more often than not, they failed to capitalize. Poythress was the exception. Coach John Calipari called the freshman forward, “a beast,” adding, “he’s not a two guard, be a beast. That’s what he did.”

Star of the Game. Seth Curry, Duke. Duke’s Mike Krzyzsewski called Curry “the difference maker in the game.” And he was. He scored 23 points, added three rebounds, and committed zero turnovers. More importantly, he was the heart and soul of Duke’s team. Curry knew the inexperience of Kentucky’s backcourt, and he looked to take advantage. “We knew they didn’t have too much experience so we wanted to jump all over them,” Curry said. He disrupted Kentucky’s backcourt, causing guards Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays to each commit four turnovers.

Quotes to Note.

  • “It’s all new to our team. We don’t play hard enough. We don’t go after every rebound yet. We haven’t figured out how we’re going to play. But we’re learning.” –Kentucky coach John Calipari 
  • “This is a big game for us. We weren’t a good defensive team last year. It’s been a point of emphasis.” — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Sights and Sounds. John Calipari came out of the locker room at halftime shaking his head in disgust. He was disturbed by the number of charges called against his Wildcats, and he even made a comment about it to a sideline reporter at halftime (see the TumblRTC on the right sidebar). When asked after the game, Calipari said, “I don’t even remember.” When reminded of his comments, he quipped, “you guys at Duke can take a joke, right?” Coach K got his dig at Calipari in as well saying, ” He has a right to say whatever he wants. I thought we took some amazing charges.” Some good old-fashioned ribbing between coaches always makes these games a little more interesting.

What’s Next: Kentucky plays Lafayette on Friday with a desperate need for a starting point guard. Calipari was still unsure of Harrow’s status as of Tuesday night, so the Cats will continue to give Goodwin playing time in that role. The Wildcats must also find a way for forward Kyle Wiltjer to get more involved. He shot 25 percent of the Wildcats’ shots when he played last week, but he struggled to find an open shot against Duke. The Blue Devils play Florida Gulf Coast this weekend with a desire to heal their wounds and get healthy before match-ups next week with Minnesota and potentially Memphis.

Brian Joyce (333 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.

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2 responses to “Rushed Reaction: #9 Duke 75, #2 Kentucky 68”

  1. AMurawa says:

    Good stuff. As good as Duke looked tonight, the thing is, those UK frosh have got a lot of improvement ahead of them over the next 4-5 months. Those Duke seniors likely don’t have the same trajectory ahead of them. Sulaimon is gonna get better, but the Blue Devils probably need Jefferson to become a contributor.

  2. bjoyce says:

    Agreed. Kentucky will look completely different in March. Will help to have a starting point guard as well. Duke looked much better than I anticipated. Coach K admitted this was not a good defensive squad last year, but they certainly look the part this season. They stayed in front of Kentucky’s guards and prevented penetration and took a lot away from UK’s shooters (Mays and Wiltjer in particular). Both games gave us quality basketball for November.

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