DUKE 75, KENTUCKY 68
Nov. 13, 2012
Georgia Dome; Atlanta
Archie Goodwin drives past Duke's Quinn Cook in the Cats' 75-68 loss (Matt McCarty/TCP)
ATLANTA - On the eve of the first Kentucky-Duke bloodletting in 11 years, most college basketball analysts opined that the Blue Devils' experience would trump the Wildcats' talent at this early juncture.
The assessment proved accurate but it was readily apparent the Cats won't be an easy out if they meet again in March. Duke used big games from seniors Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee to turn back a late Kentucky rally for a 75-68 victory in front of 22,847 fans at the Georgia Dome.
Duke took a 14-point lead with 9:25 remaining in the game without star forward Mason Plumlee on the floor because of foul trouble, but could not put the young Cats away. UK responded with a 9-0 run that sliced the lead to 64-61 with 3:29 remaining but could draw no closer.
Plumlee was in foul trouble all evening but didn't pick up his fifth personal until 34.3 seconds remained, scoring 18 points in the meantime. Curry evoked memories of his brother, Stephen, by mixing crafty scoring ability with deft shooting touch for 23 points.
“It was a good game. I can't stand losing but it was a good game. I think it helped our team. It's all new to this team. We don't play hard enough yet. We don't compete on every possession yet.”
“I(Calipari) has the right to say whatever he wants. I thought we took some amazing charges.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, on John Calipari saying Duke was flopping
The word on Alex Poythress when he arrived at Kentucky was he possessed all-world ability but needed to learn at what RPMs he must play in order to tap into his vast talent. It will take the entirety of the season to completely solve those freshman issues but he showed the college basketball world what all the fuss has been about with a big-time performance. Poythress was clearly the most athletic specimen on the floor and routinely went over and through Duke players for rebounds, which included three gravity-defying dunks. Poythress finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
When Mason Plumlee went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 16:05 mark it stood to reason that Kentucky would cut into the Blue Devils' six-point advantage. Instead, Duke weathered a pair of missed UK three-pointers and ultimately went on a 15-5 run fueled by a pair of Rasheed Sulaimon tripled that opened the game up to 58-44 with 10:05 remaining. The Cats eventually pulled within three on a 9-0 spurt of their own but couldn't come all the way back with Duke making its free throws down the stretch.
It might have gone somewhat unnoticed in the exhaust coming from Poythress' high-flying display was a hustling, relentless effort from freshman forward Nerlens Noel. The big man was all over the floor all night, diving on the ground for loose balls, challenging shots at the rim, getting to the free throw line. Noel still has a ways to go, especially on the offensive end and at the free throw line, but his final line of 16 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three blocked shots and two assists with just one turnover may have been the best all-around effort of the night for either team.
5 – Kyle Wiltjer did not have a poor game. The sophomore forward had four assists, didn't turn the basketball over and didn't stand out on the defensive end for the wrong reasons. But Kentucky simply has to get more than five points out of their best shooter in order to maximize its potential. That's not a knock, just the reality for one of the Cats' 'experienced' players.
In some respects, the success John Calipari has had in his first three seasons at Kentucky has almost created and situation that is unfair to the freshmen who came in this season and will arrive for years to come. This was a game that Duke probably should win and the very fact that Kentucky rallied from a 14-point deficit down the stretch, without its point guard, should give fans more than a few reasons to think it could be another wildly successful year once the sting wears off the loss in the next day or so.
Kentucky (1-1) returns to Rupp Arena for its regular season home opener on Friday at 7 p.m. against Lafayette.