What we learned from Duke’s big win over Kentucky

Aubrey Yates
November 7, 2018

With just two exhibition games under their belts, we did not have a whole lot to go on when breaking down this Kansas team. "We have a big target on us, and every environment we go to is going to be like that, so just to get used to it". Confirming what everyone watching the game was thinking, Jay Bilas kept saying Duke was "toying" with Kentucky.

The Blue Devils' fabulous freshmen collectively laughed as if that mattered on Tuesday night. For these four teams, playing quality competition on a big stage provides a welcome opportunity to learn what they do well and what they need to improve upon.

Three Duke players scored at least 22 points while freshman Keldon Johnson tallied 23 points for Kentucky in the losing effort. That allowed Kentucky to climb back as close as 12 points.

It was a total and complete annihilation, the likes that we rarely see when two top five teams take the floor, and in that same building on Tuesday night, it was hard not to think of that Kentucky win as the Wildcats found the shoe on the other foot. Still, you can bet coach Mike Krzyzewski will try to fix his team's flaws and make Duke an even more hard matchup.

Both Barrett and Williamson surpassed Marvin Bagley III's program record for points by a freshman in his debut at 25.

And if the Blue Devils, who made 54 percent of their shots and 47 percent of their three-point attempts, continue to put on similar displays as the season continues - next up is a home game on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Army, Coach K's alma mater and site of his first head-coaching job - they will be the source of headaches for coaches who will be tasked with figuring out how to slow down such a phenomenal group of freshmen and their impressive supporting cast. They combined for 83 points on the night, nearly outscoring the Wildcats' entire roster. 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.

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Duke: The Blue Devils only committed four turnovers compared with Kentucky's 15. Reddish finished with the quietest 22 points in the history of college basketball, a night that would have been considered an explosion for the third-best player on this Duke team.

That overall display - in a game that the Blue Devils entered as a slight underdog - is sure to be the primary topic amongst college basketball fans at water coolers in offices across the country for days to come.

Kentucky: "It's tough when you go down like that", Travis said.

Duke: "Every game will be like that".

"Obviously, we have to learn to close out games, " Self said. "It'll be there every night".

Kentucky hosts Southern Illinois in the Wildcats' regular-season home opener Friday night at 6 p.m.

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