Duke vs. Kentucky score, takeaways: Freshmen Paolo Banchero, Trevor Keels push Blue Devils past Wildcats
No. 9 Duke posted a big season-opening victory over No. 10 Kentucky in the Champions Classic
Duke freshman sensation Paolo Banchero and junior teammate Wendell Moore Jr. both dealt with cramps throughout the second half, but No. 9 Duke still dispatched of No. 10 Kentucky in impressive fashion at the Champions Classic on Tuesday 79-71 to open its season with a statement win.
Banchero, who played 31 minutes and appeared hobbled for much of the second half, turned in a stellar performance in his college debut as he flashed his No. 1 pick potential with 22 points and seven rebounds. Fellow freshman Trevor Keels had himself a monster debut, too, turning in a game-high 25 points -- 16 of which came in the second half -- on 10-of-18 shooting. Keels came alive as Banchero went to the bench and later to the locker room to address his cramps.
Kentucky to its credit trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half but fought down to the wire. With a new, but old, core of veteran players led by transfers Oscar Tshiebwe and Sahvir Wheeler, the Wildcats shiny new toys dazzled with team-highs of 17 and 16 points, respectively. But UK took 16 fewer free-throw attempts, committed 13 turnovers and gave up 19 points off those turnovers in a game it could never quite get over the hump in.
With the win Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski opens his 42nd -- and final -- season at Duke on a strong note with a win over a Hall of Fame coach in John Calipari and a club that opened the season ranked inside the top-10. It's Duke ninth win in its last 11 meetings with Kentucky and moves the program to 7-2 all-time vs. UK under Krzyzewski.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday night's game.
1. Duke's Banchero is the real deal
Banchero was No. 1 in the CBS Sports preseasonand No. 1 in our preseason . Too soon to victory lap on that one, I'll admit, but through 40 minutes of college basketball action, I feel like it's a pretty safe bet he'll finish the season in the same spot. The 6-foot-10 freshman flashed his well-polished game throughout with a smooth stroke, an in-between game, and yes, even some on-the-ball assignments as an initiator and creator.
He finished with 22 points in 31 minutes and went 7-of-11 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line and was, quite clearly, the best player on the floor by a wide margin. This is a player that should not only lift Duke to a new level as a serious contender, but one that we should now consider as a real POY contender, too.
2. Duke's length and strength stands out
Kentucky big man Tshiebwe got his -- he had 19 rebounds on the night and dominated the glass -- but Duke's length and physicality bothered the Wildcats all night. When it wasn't Keels bully-balling his way to the basket, it was Theo John disrupting in the paint. When it wasn't Jeremy Roach jumping the passing lanes, it was Mark Williams defending the rim and swatting shots. Duke's length and athleticism is a real asset. Even against a talented and experienced Kentucky team it simply overmatched them.
3. Another star emerges
With A.J. Griffin and Banchero, I liked Duke at 16-1 as one of my best value bets entering the season. Turns out, I might've tabbed the wrong co-star for Banchero. Keels was a monster in his debut on both ends of the court with a team-high 25 points and 3 steals. There was plenty of buzz about him in the preseason -- most expected him to be a significant contributor -- but he looked the part Tuesday of a legitimate co-star next to Banchero.
Banchero at the scorer's table checking back in for Duke. Seems like it might've been a cramping issue. To be expected for the first game of the season.
Trevor Keels is taking over for Duke in Paolo Banchero's absence. He's up to 19 points on the night with 10 of them coming in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Banchero is in the locker room getting treatment for what ESPN's Holly Rowe reported as suspected quad tightness. Jay Bilas said it may be cramping. Trainer was rolling his quads on the sideline and he went to the locker room. May be getting fluids.
Paolo Banchero dealing with an apparent injury. Something to watch for Duke, obviously. He's clearly been the best player in the game. Getting treatment on the bench as he tries to battle through what looked like a leg issue.
Lot of back and forth to open the second half at MSG between Duke and Kentucky. Yes, yes, yes. Two big dogs trading blows. Both teams pushing the pace and attacking.
Paolo Banchero already living up to the hype. 6-foot-10 big is handling the ball and bringing it up the court, initiating offense and finishing around the rim. Can do it all. Already up to six points and two boards as Duke leads 19-18 early.
Kentucky freshman TyTy Washington has drawn a lot of preseason praise for his shot-making and shot-taking skills, but a slow start for him out of the gate. He's 0-for-3 with no points thus far. Had to force one before the shot clock and hasn't quite settled in yet.
Big men are showing out early here in the second Champions Classic game of the evening. Paolo Banchero with a pair of points. Oscar Tshiebwe with a bucket and Theo John with two from the charity stripe.