State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky

Seth Curry leads Duke to a win over Kentucky

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ATLANTA – Sparked by a 21-7 second half run, No. 9 Duke beat No. 3 Kentucky 75-68 on Tuesday night in the nightcap of the Champions Classic.

Seth Curry led the way for the Blue Devils with 23 points, while Mason Plumlee added 18 points, 16 of which came in the first half. Freshman wing Rasheed Sulaimon added ten points, five boards and five assists without committing a turnover, but he shot just 3-13 from the field. Two of those three field goals were threes that came during Duke’s game-changing run.

Kentucky made a push down the stretch, getting stops on five straight possessions to cut the lead to 64-61 with the ball. But Julius Mays missed a three that would have tied the game, and Curry knocked down a pair of free throws at the other end to push the lead back to five. The Wildcats never seriously threatened again.

This was an impressive win for Duke.

Regardless of how young Kentucky is, the Blue Devils put an impressive run on Kentucky in the second half, and they did much of it with their star center and potential lottery pick, Plumlee, sitting on the bench in foul trouble. Sulaimon hit some big shots on a night he wasn’t shooting all that well and sophomore point guard Quinn Cook made enough promising plays that those two look like they are the answer to Duke’s penetrating guards problem.

But the bottom line is that Kentucky is a different team without Ryan Harrow. As talented as Archie Goodwin is — and believe me, he’s legit — he’s not a point guard. Duke’s second half run was as much about Kentucky’s inability to get a good look at the basket for an extended second half stretch as anything.

UK is far from a finished product. They’ll get better as the season progresses, but this loss shows you that they do need to have their point guard on the roster.

 

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.