Kentucky basketball gets blown out by Duke in season opener

Freshman guards Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson walk back to the locker room following their loss to Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

The 2018-2019 college basketball season tipped off on Tuesday, and Kentucky came out of the day winless as the Wildcats were defeated by the Duke Blue Devils 118-84.

It’s the first time since the 2008-2009 season that the Wildcats dropped their season opener, when they lost 111-103 to VMI. The 118-84 final score was also the largest margin of victory in the series history between Kentucky and Duke by either team.

Duke’s high-powered offense was led by freshman R.J. Barrett, who led all scorers with 33 points. Barrett broke Duke’s record for most points scored by a freshman in a debut for the Blue Devils.

Keldon Johnson led the Cats in scoring, finishing with 23 points. Reid Travis and Tyler Herro were the other Wildcats with double digit points, scoring 22 and 14, respectively.

The Blue Devils got off to a hot start early, knocking down their first four shots, three of which were three-pointers. Duke made four of their first five three-point attempts in the first four minutes of the game to take an early 14-8 lead.

Meanwhile, Kentucky got off to a 4-13 shooting start, including a span where they missed five consecutive shots. During that span, Duke took a double-digit lead at the 14:06 mark of the first half, and the Blue Devils kept a double-digit lead throughout the rest of the game.

By halftime, Kentucky trailed Duke 59-42, with Barrett accounting for 20 of Duke’s first half points.

Duke opened up the second half on a 7-0 run, stretching its lead to 24. The Blue Devils’ largest lead was 37 with 11:45 remaining in the game.

Kentucky never held a lead during the entire game.

After Duke took its 37-point lead, the closest UK would get to taking the lead was a 27-point deficit with 7:57 remaining after Kentucky went on a 6-0 run. That was only the second instance in the game where Kentucky made a shot on three consecutive possessions.

Despite Duke knocking down 12-26 of their three-point attempts, they also hurt Kentucky in transition, outscoring the Wildcats 26-12 in fastbreak points. 

Duke’s Zion Williamson benefitted a lot from Kentucky’s loose transition defense, getting to the basket often and finishing a couple of highlight reel dunks. Williamson finished with 28 points in his collegiate debut.

Duke’s other star freshman, Cam Reddish, finished with 22 points. The trio of Barrett, Williamson and Reddish combined for 83 points, almost outscoring all the Wildcats combined. 

The Wildcats will be back on the court looking for their first win on Friday, Nov. 2, when they host Southern Illinois. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.