The stage was set in Chicago, a meeting of two basketball programs rife and rich with history and tradition. Both Duke and Kentucky were coming off double-digit victories over their first 2 opponents, but both had pieces and facets to correct. Last years National champion against the team some thought were the team of destiny last year. It was a dream match-up that could have been epic last year instead we have to very different looking teams but the hype remains.
One thing we know for sure is that the two teams playing tonight will look vastly different later on in the year.
The game would come down to which team could slough off the mistakes and play on a stage bigger than any this year so far. One team showed up and played with intensity, fervor and energy. That team was Kentucky.
Kentucky took it to Duke and won this game going away in convincing fashion. Kentucky took the game 74-63 but once the second half started there was never really a point when Duke looked poised to make a run. The most disappointing stat for Duke was the amount of unforced errors committed.. The turnover margin was starkly in Kentucky’s favor (16-9). Kentucky was quick and effective in transition and took advantage of Dukes porous defense.
In a game where neither team shot great from beyond the arc Kentucky used its guards to perfection. Tyler Ulis may be the best point guard in America and he showed by scoring 18 and dishing 6 assists and no turnovers. Jamal Murray, the Canadian sensation, was not far behind scoring 16 and dishing 5 assists.
Duke struggled in every facet of the game defensively Kentucky was able to do whatever they wanted Duke was consistently out of position in both the half-court and in transition. Offensively Duke struggled. Duke was neither strong with the ball nor did they get production from the usual suspects. Grayson Allen struggled mightily against the length of Kentucky going 2-11, Allen also turned the ball over 4 times. Brandon Ingram also had a hard time finding his shot against Kentucky going 1 of 6. Duke was kept in this game on the strength of its upperclassmen. Early Duke was paced by Marshall Plumlee who scored Dukes first 9 points. Plumlee finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Amile Jefferson also had a solid game scoring 15 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. Both Jefferson and Plumlee on the boards and on defense kept Duke in the game but seemed to tail off in defensive intensity in the second half. Some of that was Duke, some of it was Kentucky enacting a very effective game plan. When it came to freshmen Kentucky’s played big in the moment and Duke’s for the most part did not.