Veteran transfer will be x-factor in a Kentucky cover versus Duke

Grant SmithNov 09, 2018

Duke: The Blue Devils only committed four turnovers compared with Kentucky's 15.

What a start for RJ Barrett.

Duke's fabulous freshman weren't just ready for their first turn in the spotlight. He may not be the one that gets all of the headlines, but there is not a single team in the country that features three players that are big enough, athletic enough and good enough defensively to handle Duke's Big Three.

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The Duke basketball freshman enjoyed a stirring college-basketball debut Tuesday night in the Blue Devils' 118-84 win over Kentucky. "I'm really proud of my freshmen".

Calipari had previously suffered a 33-point loss to West Virginia while he was at UMass and a 32-point loss during his time in the National Basketball Association. And although most voters are likely to refrain from putting Duke in the top spot in next week's AP Top 25 Poll - after all, No. 1 Kansas did take care of its business by beating No. 10 Michigan State, 92-87, in the first game of the Champions Classic - that also seems a bit silly after what the nation just witnessed. If you take away transition defense, I think we did a lot of good things. Now we know what they can actually do.

Keldon Johnson led the Wildcats with 23 points while Reid Travis added 22 points.

But the freshmen made sure this highly-anticipated game was never close.

Kentucky never led in the game while the Blue Devils led by as many as 37 points in the second half.

Kentucky only got as close as 27 until the waning moments.

"If that is who they are, they aren't going to lose many games, " Calipari said. "I haven't lost faith in my guys". We've got a shot at seeing a basketball team that can go undefeated.

Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson carried the Kansas backcourt.

No. 2 Kentucky has more experienced players than No. 4 Duke.

The No. 8 prospect in the ESPN Top 100 rankings for the class of 2018, Grimes hit the ground running in his collegiate debut.

Barrett led the way with 33 points on 13-of-26 shooting from the field and knocked down three of the Blue Devils' 12 3-pointers.

"It's hard because he's a physical player and he puts it up in the ref's hands a lot of the times, as far as the way he's attacking you and he makes it hard to guard without fouling and he puts a lot of pressure at the rim", Travis said about Barrett, who finished 4-for-8 from the free throw line.

That didn't change and the United Kingdom coach didn't try to sugarcoat how poorly his team played. Freshman wing Tyler Herro added 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

In Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in the fourth-iteration of the Champions Classic and the first one that was held in Indianapolis, then-No. Kansas picked up its third straight victory in the Classic and improved to 15-1 in openers under coach Bill Self - on a night the Jayhawks were in control nearly the entire way. "They were just better than us".

"We weren't surprised we were winning by so much", Barrett said. We gave up 51 in the second half, so he was pretty intense about that.

But Cassius Winston missed a layup for Michigan State, Kansas grabbed the rebound and Grimes sealed it by making 1 of 2 free throws.

Michigan State was led by Joshua Langford with 18 points and Kenny Goins with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

"I learned something about my team tonight, " Spartans coach Tom Izzo said.

"You know, I was probably not very bright past 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.

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