Quick takeaways from Kentucky’s loss to Duke


Kentucky Wildcats guard Kellan Grady (31) dribbles past a defender during the UK vs. Duke men’s basketball game as part of the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Duke won 79-71. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

No. 10 Kentucky (0-1) fell to No. 10 Duke (1-0) 79-71 in the State Farm Champions Classic Tuesday night in front of a packed crowd inside Madison Square Garden.

Here are some the biggest takeaways from the Cats’ season opener against the Blue Devils:

Kentucky playing too fast for the freshman?

Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s vision of his squad being a “speed team” was met with a brick wall in the first few minutes of the Champions Classic. For his freshman, they didn’t take to the game’s fast tempo throughout the night.

Washington finished the first half 1-7 from the field with three points in nearly 17 minutes. He was simply trying to do too much.

Daimion Collins only saw two minutes early, where he committed a foul and a turnover while Bryce Hopkins did nothing with his two first half minutes.

As they say, shooters shoot—for better or worse. Washington was 2-13 seven minutes into the second half and was a major factor for Duke pushing the game to double digits. 

Washington was the only freshman to find his way onto the scoring column, finishing with nine points.

First half fouls

Five Kentucky players found themselves sitting late in the first half because of foul trouble. Oscar Tshiebwe, Washington, Jacob Toppin, Keion Brooks and Davion Mintz all ended the first half with two fouls.

If it wasn’t for Sahvir Wheeler and Kellan Grady’s five combined threes and general knack for scoring—Kentucky would’ve been down much more than four at the break.

No entry pass

During the preseason exhibitions, Tshiebwe said that the Kentucky coaching staff had emphasized the importance of the pick-and-roll game, especially heading into the Duke game. 

Surely enough, Kentucky utilized the pick-and-roll in their offense—but to no effect. Their pick-setters would cut to the basket and the guards simply wouldn’t feed the free members of the front court. Kentucky more than likely left nearly a dozen points on the table in the first half.

Lackadaisical post defense

It seems as though this may be a trend this season, but when Tshiebwe isn’t in the game, Kentucky’s interior defense suffers tremendously.

At the second media timeout, Duke led Kentucky 61-52 and was outscoring the Cats 36-24 in the paint thanks to Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels, who were blowing by defenders and finding their bigs in Theo John and Mark Williams down low for easy makes.

Banchero buckets

The superstar freshman and future NBA lottery pick, Paolo Banchero was a problem for the Kentucky defense all night. 

Banchero went to the locker room to be checked out for cramping and within a couple minutes, scored back-to-back buckets and finished with a performance that was as advertised in a collegiate debut that will likely be the start of a long and impressive career.

The attempted comeback

Down 15, Kentucky had their backs against the wall. Despite this, Kentucky whittled down the deficit to just four after an 11-0 run that featured a gutsy performance from Tshiebwe that saw him grab his 10th offensive rebound of the night.

The Kentucky hopes would be crushed just as fast with a Keels bucket that was followed by a Banchero and-one that pushed the Duke lead back to nine with just under four minutes to go.

The lead would immediately be pushed to double digits directly after the ensuing media timeout and would become insurmountable from there as Kentucky left the Big Apple with a sour taste in their mouth.