When one thinks of Duke and Kentucky, you are forced to think about two of the most storied programs in all of college basketball. Both schools are rich with their own histories and traditions of success. Tonight’s game was the heralded freshmen of Kentucky led by Coach Cal against the veteran squad of Duke led by the winningest coach in college basketball, Mike Krzyzewski.
From the start we knew that Duke was going to need their leaders to step up, and that they did against Kentucky. Mason Plumlee quickly and efficiently showed in the first half why he is a serious candidate for ACC POY. Mason dominated in the paint and proved that he was too much for the young Kentucky team to handle, although foul trouble did limit Mason as Coach K was forced to sit him for extended time in the second half, he did manage to finish with 18 points on the night.
It was senior guard Seth Curry that really put on a show and showed those in attendance and those watching from home exactly what he is made of. Curry was knocking down shots from the outside as well as putting the ball on the floor and getting into the lane to score. More than once Seth drove past Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin who just could not keep Seth in front of him. Kentucky did grab momentum and got within 3 points, but Seth never lost focus of the game. Seth drove past Goodwin, went down the lane, got freshman shot blocker Nerlens Noel in the air, went around him, and put the ball in the basket to pretty much seal the game for Duke. Curry also hit key free throws down the stretch as he finished with a team high 23 points.
Senior Ryan Kelly did not light up the scoreboard, but he did finish with 10 points on the night. It was Kelly’s hustle and defense that really helped the Blue Devils tonight. Kelly had 3 blocks and 3 steals alone in this game. We also got to see his obvious maturity as he got one of the young Kentucky players in the air while he was in the act of shooting to get himself to the free throw line.
With Mason Plumlee in foul trouble, it was junior forward Josh Hairston that was called upon to take over and provide solid minutes. He did exactly that and more. Josh played great defense against the front court of Kentucky in the time he was on the floor, he also had two huge offensive rebounds that led to two put backs. Also junior guard Tyler Thornton again got the start, while he did not hit a shot in the game, he did knock down his two free throws and provide the Devils again with stellar defense.
Sophomore guard Quinn Cook did not start the game, but he did end up logging 30 minutes in the game finishing with 7 points on 3-5 shooting with 3 assists to go along with his points. Quinn is getting better and better each game he plays with his decision making and understanding of the point guard position. Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon had a somewhat cold shooting night going 3-14 from the field; all three field goals were three pointers he knocked down in the second half. Sulaimon did finish with 10 points in the game. While he did struggle with his shooting, it was Rasheed’s 5 assists and 6 rebounds that really gave a helping hand to his team tonight. After going 0-7 in the first half, Rasheed showed maturity and confidence still shooting the ball and hitting big time shots when it was needed.
Redshirt freshman Alex Murphy logged two minutes for the Blue Devils tonight after not playing at all in the Devil’s opening game. Many have pegged Murphy as a huge asset for the Devils this season, even going as far as thinking he would be starting for the team. Alex looked a bit lost while out on the court and made a mistake on defense that ended up getting him sent back to the bench. Whatever is going on with Alex hopefully will be resolved and soon. He is too good of a player, and he is the SF the Blue Devils lacked last season that could make a difference with how far the Devils end up going come March.
Freshman Amile Jefferson logged four minutes for the Blue Devils. He seemed a bit tight during the time he was on the floor. Like Murphy, Amile will have a huge impact on the Devil's success when it comes tournament time. We have seen flashes of great things from Amile in the exhibition games and the first game of the season. He will need to continue getting stronger in the weight room, and will need to have confidence during any time he sees on the floor so he can provide solid minutes while out there.
This is a great win for this Blue Devils group especially beating a high ranked team in November. There are still areas for Duke to grow. Too many missed free throws and turnovers allowed Kentucky to get back in the game. With Marshall Plumlee still out for an extended time, Mason will need to watch his fouls in games as we need his presence on the floor. The seniors really put on a show leading this team, and Duke still needs solid contributions from underclassmen if they are going to continuing winning. For the second game of the season, Duke looked impressive, and if they can continue to improve on what they have going now it could be a very deep run for this Duke team come March.
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