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.