Duke's much-hyped freshman class annihilates No. 2 Kentucky
Nov 10 2018 by Dustin Murphy
Talk about living up to its billing.
As great as the Spartans-Jayhawks appetizer was, it was the main course of the Blue Devils and their loaded recruiting class, featuring Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish taking on Jim Calipari's Wildcats that had me most excited.
Both Barrett and Williamson surpassed Marvin Bagley III's program record for points by a freshman in his debut at 25. Williamson scored 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Neither team shot well from the floor as a whole - UCA shot 32.8 percent and Central Baptist shot 29.3 percent - but the Sugar Bears particularly struggled from the three-point line, going 1 for 17. There's no way Kerr is the only National Basketball Association coach who he is dreaming about Williamson making the leap. He skied for one rebound in the first half that was particularly impressive. He's just a different kind of player.
It's not often under John Calipari that the Kentucky Wildcats are considered the more experienced team in a matchup against another top-5 program, but that's exactly the situation we're faced with as No. 2 Kentucky takes on No. 4 Duke on Tuesday at the 2018 Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
Heck, anyone who didn't watch only needs to look at the scoreline - a disgustingly dominant 118-84 finish powered by a fleet of freshmen - to know that this Blue Devils team is like 2012 Kentucky incarnate but, like, 100 times scarier.
Duke overwhelmed Kentucky from the game's opening tip, showing its offensive versatility and efficiency while building a 21-point lead before 10 minutes had been played. It's a long season so it won't have too much of a long-term impact, but they'll get the job done on this first day.
Calipari said Williamson's effort against Kentucky's big bodies was unexpected. A lot of things can happen.
"You know, I was probably not very bright previous year, but I've never been a guy that thinks you take your best players out in a game", Self said of Azubuike, who also had four blocks in his 20 minutes.
Talk about a dud.
The Wildcats received a major boost from Stanford transfer Travis Reed, who is expected to be one of the stars of this year's team. With both teams donning elite talent on the wings and the point, the play in the paint could be an important difference-maker. And just three weeks ago, it was zero percent. But this one got away from them because of poor free-throw shooting and sloppy overall play - things that need to be cleaned up quickly. Williamson theoretically could defend bigger players and blow by them on offense. On Saturday afternoon, the newly bowl-eligible gridiron Blue Devils, fresh off a 20-12 upset win at Miami, will attempt to retain the Victory Bell (a win would mark five of the last seven over their rivals from Chapel Hill). Weren't UK's freshmen wanting to prove they were just as good as Duke's much more lionized freshmen? That's the fewest turnovers the Cats have forced in a game in the Calipari era.
"Obviously, we have to learn to close out games", Self said. "I was telling my staff that". "He said, 'All you guys hit the genetic lottery, but Zion hit it twice'". Barrett played like the No. 1 pick he's projected to be. Here are my Top 3 takeaways from last night's game.
This team won't end up in the NIT. "We just have to play our game". As usual, Calipari's club is loaded with freshman.
Keldon Johnson scored 23 points to lead Kentucky.
Ty Jerome scored 20 points and De'An-dre Hunter had 13 and 10 rebounds as No. 5 Virginia beat Towson 73-42. He suggested that neither Ashton Hagans nor Immanuel Quickley were the kind of game-changing point guards United Kingdom enjoyed with John Wall, Brandon Knight and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.