Fantastic freshmen help No. 4 Duke blow out No. 2 Kentucky
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Zion Williamson and fourth-ranked Duke were well on their way to a blowout victory when the high-flying freshman blocked a shot to start yet another Blue Devil fastbreak.
Williamson dribbled up the left side, whipped a pass through traffic to classmate RJ Barrett, then met him under the basket with a hearty chest bump after Barrett fought off a foul to finish his layup.
Duke’s fabulous freshman weren’t just ready for their first turn in the spotlight.
“They were magnificent,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Barrett scored 33 points and Williamson added 28 as both players broke the school record by points in a freshman debut, and the Blue Devils romped over No. 2 Kentucky 118-84 on Tuesday night in the season-opening Champions Classic.
“To play this well on this stage, right away against Kentucky is surprising,” Krzyzewski said after picking up victory No. 1,101 for his career. “I’m really proud of my freshmen.”
They were almost flawless.
Barrett was 13 of 26 from the field with six assists and four rebounds, and Williamson went 11 of 13 from the field with seven rebounds.
Duke won for the eighth time in the last 10 meetings between two of the nation’s four winningest programs, and this time handed coach John Calipari his first opening-night loss at Kentucky and his most lopsided loss since taking the job a decade ago.
The teams set a Classic record for most combined points, set hours earlier in No. 1 Kansas’ 92-87 victory over No. 10 Michigan State.
Duke’s newcomers never doubted they could win this convincingly.
“We weren’t surprised we were winning by so much,” Barrett said. “We know what we have. We see it every day.”
Keldon Johnson scored 23 points to lead Kentucky and graduate transfer Reid Travis added 22 for the Wildcats.
But the freshmen made sure this highly-anticipated game was never close.
Duke led by 10 after six minutes and extended the lead to 34-13 less than 10 minutes into the game.
After making it 59-42 at halftime, Duke kept pulling away throughout the second half. Barrett’s dunk with 16:11 remaining made it 72-47, Alex O’Connell’s 3-pointer with 11:45 remaining made it 91-54 and Duke topped the 100-point mark on another dunk by Barrett with 7:36 left.
Kentucky never got closer than 27 the rest of the game.
“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 still got a good group.”
Kentucky: It was an embarrassing performance for the Wildcats, who weren’t physical enough against Williamson and couldn’t keep up with Barrett. Most teams don’t have that kind of combination, but it’s clear Kentucky needs to improve dramatically to keep up with the nation’s top teams.
Duke: The Blue Devils seem to have it all — athletes, scorers, defenders and rebounders. Still, you can bet coach Mike Krzyzewski will try to fix his team’s flaws and make Duke an even more difficult matchup.
Kentucky: Tyler Herro was the only other player to reach double figures. He finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. ... Kentucky shot 44 percent from the field but allowed the Blue Devils to shoot 54 percent. ... The Wildcats were outscored 60-38 in the paint. ... The game marked the first time Kentucky faced a ranked opponent in a season opener since a 79-71 overtime loss to Clemson in 1995.
Duke: Marvin Bagley III held the previous mark for points by a freshman in his debut with 25. ... The Blue Devils only committed four turnovers compared with Kentucky’s 15. ... Duke improved to 12-2 all-time in Indianapolis and 3-0 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. ... The Blue Devils have won 19 consecutive openers.
THEY SAID IT
Kentucky: “It’s tough when you go down like that,” Travis said. “As we mature, we’ll be able to stop those blows and flip it.”
Duke: “Every game will be like that. We have a big target on us,” Barrett said. “It’ll be there every night.”
Kentucky looks to rebound when it returns to Rupp Arena against Southern Illinois on Friday.
Duke hosts Krzyzewski’s alma mater, Army, on Sunday.