In their first meeting in 11 years, the Duke men’s basketball team took down Kentucky, 75-68 in the State Farm Champions Classic (Michigan State beat Kansas in the first game of the doubleheader).
It was a close game throughout in Atlanta in front of a crowd partial to the third ranked Wildcats.
The Duke senior trio scored all of their points until Josh Hairston made a free throw with 3:55 to go in the first half. That’s not going to be able to continue if Duke is going to win more big games this season (unless all three average 20 or more points).
Kentucky did all they could to slow down Mason Plumlee, but getting him into foul trouble didn’t stop his scoring or hurt the Blue Devils. He picked up his fourth foul with 16:05 to go in the second half with Duke clinging to a 43-37 lead. He headed to the bench and they increased their lead to 52-42 (which was their largest lead of the game at that time) with about 12 minutes to go.
Plumlee finished with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He even went 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
With Plumlee sitting, Seth Curry took it upon himself to take over. He ended up leading all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Who needs practice?
Hairston also gave Duke good minutes off the bench in place of Plumlee (even though he too fouled out in the closing seconds). He scored five points and hauled in five rebounds, including four offensive boards.
It was another tough shooting night for freshman Rasheed Sulaimon. He again started but went just 3-of-13 from the field. He didn’t let his shooting woes hurt his game, as he hauled in six rebounds and dished out five assists. I was again impressed as he did not commit a turnover.
It was also a tough offensive night for senior Ryan Kelly. He was just 4-for-12 from the field (ten points). He did block three shots and have three steals. So far this season, Kelly has scored just 18 points in two games on 6-of-18 shooting. He really needs to step up.
For Kentucky, Alex Poythress (who chose Kentucky over Duke) was a force inside. He scored 20 points (9-of-13 shooting) on a few monstrous dunks and hauled in eight points.
*Next up for Duke, is a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday night. I’m not sure how good the Eagles are, but it may be a nice chance for the freshman and Alex Murphy to get into a rhythm. With another win, the Blue Devils should move up in the rankings from their current nine spot.