Cats fall behind Duke, lose 75-68



By David Schuh

[email protected]

ATLANTA — The Georgia Dome had the feel of a game in late March on Tuesday night. There was blue everywhere you looked. And it was the Blue Devil blue that left Atlanta with that tournament-like confidence.

UK lost their first game of the season to Duke, 75-68, the earliest they have lost a game in the John Calipari era.

“We had our chances,” Calipari said. “There were probably two or three spells of a minute and a half that cost us the game.”

UK was without sophomore guard Ryan Harrow, who stayed in Lexington while still recovering from the flu.

The Cats came out hot in the first half, leading by as much as six early on. But Duke fought back, aided by a 15-4 run that put them up by two at half.

Freshman Alex Poythress led UK with his best statistical half of the season. He tallied 10 first half points to go along with three rebounds.

The two teams totaled 19 team fouls in the first 20 minutes. Four Cats entered the locker room with two fouls.

Duke senior Mason Plumlee, who had 14 points in the first half, picked up his fourth foul with 16 minutes left. Calipari immediately subbed in freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, hoping to take advantage of the 6-foot-10 forward’s absence.

But the move didn’t pay off. Duke extended their lead to 12 in the following four and a half minutes with a 9-1 run, capitalizing on several UK turnovers.

“We had chances to get up and down and missed some opportunities,” freshman Nerlens Noel said. “We’ll get better as the year goes on.”

The Cats struggled to string together quality offensive possessions. The Blue Devils were consistent on the defensive glass, making sure the UK big men couldn’t get easy second-chance points.

But with five minutes left, graduate student Julius Mays hit a transition three to cut the lead to five. Freshman Archie Goodwin followed with a layup that sent the capacity crowd of majority Cats fans into a frenzy.

“You know they’re going to make a run,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They’ve won over 100 games in three years; they’re national champions.”

The lead wouldn’t get any closer, though. Two free throws and a layup by senior Seth Curry gave Duke a seven-point lead they held onto in the final minute.

“Our guys handled that well,” Krzyzewski said. “We just said let’s win this three-minute ballgame. And we did.”

The Blue Devils surge could be largely attributed to their three-point shooting. They finished 8-17 from behind the arc, including 4-6 in the second half.

Poythress continued his strong play down the stretch. The freshman finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, including several highlight-reel dunks.

“We worked for two days on Alex getting to the rim,” Calipari said. “He played well today. That is what he needs to look like; he’s a beast.”

Goodwin, starting at point guard in place of Harrow, added 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.

“We learned a lot about ourselves tonight,” Noel said. “You’ve got to bring it every possession. It’s a learning experience.”

The Cats return home to play Lafayette at Rupp Arena Friday night in a continuation of the Barclays Center Classic. The game is scheduled to tip at 7 p.m.