Keels carries and Tshiebwe shines: Quick hits from Duke’s 79-71 victory over Kentucky


Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) calls out to his team 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

Hunter Shelton

No. 9 Duke and Mike Krzyzewski reigned victorious over No. 10 Kentucky and John Calipari on Tuesday, winning the second game of the Champions Classic, 79-71. 

The star freshmen duo of Trevor Keels and Paolo Banchero led the way for the Blue Devils, accounting for 47 of Duke’s 79 points. 

Oscar Tshiebwe was Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder, totaling 17 points and 19 boards. Sahvir Wheeler was right behind Tshiebwe with 16 points. 

The Wildcats did their best to contain Banchero in the first half, but the freshman still dropped 12 points and four reboundsHis mid-range jump shot was flush all night. 

Sahvir Wheeler kept it close for the Cats in the first half, scoring 12 points to go along with five assists. The Georgia transfer hit both of his 3-point attempts while only turning the ball over twice.  

Kellan Grady’s nine points on three first-half treys all came at opportune times for UK. The Davidson transfer picked his shots wisely in The Garden, keeping UK’s deficit slim.  

Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr. caused many problems for UK’s Keion Brooks Jr., connecting on all four of his shot attempts in the first 20 minutes, compiling two boards and two assists along the way. Brooks, meanwhile, failed to record a point in the first half 

The biggest matchup on paper and in person did not disappoint on Tuesday. OscaTshiebwe made a statement early, grabbing eight rebounds to go along with four points in the first halfSeven of the West Virginia transfers boards came on the offensive glass. Williams would haul in six rebounds of his own to go along with five points.  

Freshman TyTy Washington failed to get going early in The Garden, shooting 1-7 from the field, nabbing just two rebounds and two assists.  

Trevor Keels would prove to be the X-factor for the Blue Devils; the two-guard produced nine points in the first half, also contributing two assists, one rebound and a stealThe freshman would takeover in the second half. On 7-11 shooting, Keels dropped 16 to pace Duke after halftime.  

Like the first half, Washington could not get to grips with the speed of the game for the Cats. The freshman shot two of seven as Duke’s backcourt kept the guard from picking his shots, forcing tough midrange jumpers and heavy contests.  

Duke fans around the globe held their breath in the second half, as Banchero headed to the locker room early in the half for what was later identified as cramping. Despite being down their best player, the Blue Devils would outscore UK 18-6 during Banchero’s absence.  

Keion Brooks would play a pivotal role in keeping UK close in the second half, as the forward scored nine points in just eight minutes on the court.  

Down by 15 with nine minutes left to play, Kentucky would go on an 11-0 run in their last attempt to sway the game into their favor. Tshiebwe would spearhead the run, scoring seven straight points for the Cats. Duke would respond hard and heavy, quickly going on a 7-0 run of their own to push the lead back out to nine points with just over three minutes remaining.  

Duke did not have to shoot the lights out from deep to win on Tuesday. The Blue Devils made just one of their 13 3-point attempts. From inside the arch, Duke shot 30-48, a 62 percent clip. UK would make seven of 18 3-pointers, but a 22-59 night from 2-point range plagued the Wildcats from keeping up in MSG. 

Kentucky will have a quick turnaround once they get back from the Big Apple, as they look for their first win of the season in their home opener, welcoming Robert Morris to Rupp Arena on Nov. 12. The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. E.T.