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Kentucky’s “veterans” out-hustled and outplayed by Duke’s newcomers


© Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The narrative coming into the day was simple: Kentucky had the experience and depth, while Duke had the elite talent up top.

The Blue Devils had the three highest-rated recruits in the nation to go with five-star point guard Tre Jones. Beyond that, Duke was deemed thin and inexperienced. Would those four players be able to top a Kentucky team deep enough to run a legitimate platoon system? They didn’t have the superstar recruits, but going into the game, most thought it didn’t matter.

Just six minutes into the game, Duke’s first six buckets came from their star freshmen, garnering a ten-point lead in the process.

A made shot for a Kentucky sophomore (or higher) didn’t come until the 9:59 mark in the first half when forward PJ Washington hit a three-pointer to cut Duke’s 21-point deficit to 18.

We saw immediately just how little leadership or experience mattered in this game, and it remained consistent through the final buzzer. Duke’s three superstar freshmen totaled 83 points, while Kentucky’s trio of sophomore returnees combined for just nine points.

And Washington had eight of them.

Quade Green and Nick Richards provided little to nothing at any point in their time on the floor, combining for just one total point. Richards struggled with foul trouble and turnovers, and he certainly wasn’t a force on the glass, finishing with just two rebounds against a suspect Blue Devil frontcourt. The “Sophomore Nick Richards” we saw in the Bahamas and at times in exhibition play reverted back to the inconsistent play we saw in year one. Meanwhile, Green’s erratic shot selection and hero ball on offense, combined with an atrocious defensive effort, proved to do more harm than good. He came in with a mindset more focused on hitting tough shots to prove why he deserved to be in the starting lineup more than actually doing what it took to win the game. For a player who prides himself on being a bulldog from Philadelphia he had more bark than bite against the Duke backcourt.

As for PJ Washington, his stat line of eight points and two rebounds just won’t cut it this season. He hit a big three midway through the first half, but he provided zero help on the inside when the Cats absolutely needed some production from the frontcourt. He allowed Zion Williamson to get wherever he wanted in the post, and to make it more disappointing, some of the other weaker members of the Blue Devil frontcourt were able to put in work. Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden racked up fouls in a hurry, but instead of capitalizing by bruising inside like we all know he’s more than capable of, the focus remained (from the entire team, really) on jacking up unnecessary jumpshots. Tyler Herro somehow managed to out-rebound him 9-2 and he fouled out with a whopping eight minutes remaining. We saw ups and downs last season from both Green and Richards, but Washington ended up being one of the most consistent players on the team come March. To see that disappear on the big stage was extremely disappointing.

Arguably the only bright spot for the veteran Wildcats was just how relentless Reid Travis was from start to finish. No matter what the lead was, Travis was finding ways to help his teammates out on both ends of the floor. He capitalized on the inexperience of the opposing Duke players by baiting them into pump fakes and fouls to head to the line, something he should be able to do with ease as the season rolls forward. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal in his Kentucky debut.

Above all else, you expect your leaders to set the tone of the game for the freshmen from the jump. They were on this same stage at the Champions Classic a year ago, they knew the massive spotlight that would be on this game. But aside from Travis, all of Kentucky’s experienced players looked shell-shocked at one point or another while Duke’s star trio looked hungry and prepared from the opening tip. They embraced their role as the media darlings and thrived when gametime came around, while the Cats missed a massive opportunity to shut that down from day one of the college basketball season.

Kentucky’s 34-point loss is the second-worst blowout an AP top-two team has ever managed, and a big part of it had to do with the no-shows from the Wildcat sophomores.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

36 responses to “Kentucky’s “veterans” out-hustled and outplayed by Duke’s newcomers”

  1. davis2319

    That’s what our sophomores are though. They are honestly terrible. We expect them to show up and be something they aren’t. They just aren’t good basketball players. Nick Richards is a lost cause and Green is not far behind. Duke isn’t 34 points better than us, but they are wayyyy better than us at the moment. Hopefully we can make adjustments and improve from this. If not, Coach Cal will have some explaining to do. Last championship will be 7 years ago this April. We pay him too much money to settle for sweet 16’s and elite 8’s. The day of Kentucky dominating the one and done scene is over. You better believe every recruit in the country watched that game tonight.

  2. Wade

    I’m embarrassed! They should be. Time to stop smiling and flexing and talking to your head doctor and play ball! If cal wanted to do something crazy he’d announce he is quitting one and done and looking to form a team and coach!

    1. BigBlueMeade

      Except…we just got whooped by a one and done team??? I don’t understand the logic in this.

    2. Wade

      Coaching is the logic these guys aren’t one and done

    3. Rixter

      I think he’s done just that. \
      Did you see any one-and-done guys in white last night?

  3. A_Blue_Wildcat

    I think it’s abundantly clear at this point that we will never come close to winning it all again with Cal until we start getting the very top talent again. We needed the number 1 and 2 recruits to win it all with him (Davis and MKG) and the only way we’ll do it again is if we get those types of recruits instead of the 5-25 range.

    1. DelrayCat

      I claim bull crap. Having the best talent didn’t win it for Villanova. The problem is the system. Cal doesn’t scout opponents. Never has and never will. Duke, on the other hand, knew all you needed to do was set a high ball screen with a big, get the switch, and then Zion, Cam, or RJ just goes right by our guy. With no real rim protector…that’s easy money. Zone may be this team’s only chance to be decent defensively.

    2. A_Blue_Wildcat

      I never said that everyone needs to have the top talent to win, I said we will only win a national championship under Calipari with that level of talent.

    3. DelrayCat

      I hear ya. I didn’t mean to call you out. I just wanted to make the point the obvious that the best talent doesn’t always win. And although Cal is a great recruiter and a fine coach overall…he is quite stubborn with his system. Sure, it works great if you are far better than the opponent. But at times, it can be easily defeated with good coaching. Add in superior players, and you get a beatdown like tonight. In so many ways…same ol’ same ol’.

    4. katmandue2you

      This was an all systems failure. Our guys went from deer in the headlights look to deer laying dead on the side of the road look. What really eats my ass is how Duke was all business in the tunnel and our guys were dancing and mugging for the camera. That pisses me off

    5. BoroBankCat

      Right there with you ABW. It was tough to watch, but even though they’re freshman, Zion and Barrett are experienced in handling the limelight, which made it calm the rest of their team down and let them play great ball. We just got stunned early and never recovered. I think we can still be a great team. However, if Duke keeps playing like they’re playing, it’s not going to matter. Damn, they looked impressive.

  4. DelrayCat

    Without Reid Travis…this year might have been a dumpster fire. Next year bodes even worse if all these guys are one-and-done and off to the NBA to ride the pine. Meanwhile, the SEC will be a meat-grinder. Thanks goodness Cal is giving us the whole coming month of playing little sisters of the poor to make us feel better until the SEC slate begins which we probably finish no better than 3rd in the regular season…again.

    1. Rixter

      Yep, NBA GMs are lining up for a chance to draft Quickley, or Montgomery, or Hagans.. cuz the NBA is way easier than college!

  5. Robkycats54

    Of course quade & Nick gave us nothing when you take there confidence away from them by not starting them so now they both gotta get in a rhythm when we are down by 15 or more thanks coach Cal by not starting them smh he should of started them like he did in the Bahamas period…… That’s not there fault put that 1 on Cal

    1. kjd

      Duke is really good. Coach K is very good. K had his guys ready, he has them figured out.
      Big Blue is needing major work, Coach Cal still figuring things out. We will see, come February, what we have. That’s the usual pattern.
      We saw tonight why PJ isn’t in the NBA.

    2. Wade

      K said play fast and attack kick it when you see your man spotted up like cal wants to and if your open shoot 3s they have some plays but mostly it’s superior talent and hustle and heart! K has cals team, roll the ball out! Our group has to be coached protect the ball and slow it down. We have to be more efficient, not gonna be highlights for us until we learn x o basketball! We look so small and slow! Time to build team ky deserves better!

    3. whatchyugot

      Quade and Nick starting wasn’t going to change anything about that game. Anybody who’s ever played ball knows you don’t lose your confidence from not starting. If anything you get mad and play harder. If your confidence is that fragile you’re not D1 material. Bottom line… Defense is 90% effort and we gave zero effort on defense….ZERO. That’s probably why they started on the pine. They are both notoriously bad defenders.

  6. maildad

    Start Quade and Richards? If they deserved to start they would start. Who should Richards start over? Travis? He was one of the only bright spots tonight. Richards has no basketball iq he only plays well when we play a team with everyOne shorter than 6’8. Hard to start Richards Travis and pj. Sorry to say but pj is no small fwd never will be. His ceiling is like a Patrick patterson

    1. maildad

      Ppat has made a living in the nba sad to say I don’t see that happening with pj at the moment

  7. Rick_S

    Quade Green made some of the dumbest passes I’ve seen. He’s not on this level of play..He might be a decent player at EKU…Needs to ride the pine and work on his ballhandling and try to get his basketball IQ up..Cal should cut the rotation to 7 right now..CG and Quickley are not ready for the big time

  8. catdaddyd

    I don’t recall one player diving on the floor for a loose ball.

    1. FlatTopsAndBlockedShots

      Ashton Hagans did in the first half but they called a foul on him

  9. Urincatland

    Embarrassing!! If Cal can’t back it up he needs to stop preaching we’re the GOLD STANDARD of college basketball. Every recruit in the country just saw Duke put a beat down on us. Total embarrassment!

  10. timbo

    “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” I see the same folks making the same “time to change the system”, “Cal won’t win another” comments EVERY time there’s a loss. It’s okay to be upset about what we saw tonight, but get a grip. It is what it is. You ought to be measured by your own standards for a change.

    1. henderblue

      Lot of horses may be stolen from Churchill Downs and rode off the bridges today timbo. Fact of the matter is we wanted those 3 guys really bad and didn’t get them. Now K beating us at our own game with this guys. The dribble drive is alive and well at Duke. They got two guys can get to the basket any time they want and they are surrounded by shooters to open the lanes for them. They’ll have a great year, we will get better but at the end of the day/season those 3 guys are a match up problem for us. And everyone else.

  11. BoroBankCat

    Sorry, meant to agree with Timbo. Not ABW

  12. N-UR-i

    Football game this Saturday!

  13. StuckinLville

    I dont understand why Cal went with this line up instead of what he did in the Bahamas. Just flat out embarassing.

  14. RAGE

    Cal should honestly give his pay check back to the University for this game… Cause that was the most unprepared team I have ever saw… Just plain EMBARRASSING WE SHOULD BOYCOTT THE NEXT HOME GAME… Would serve this team right if there wasn’t 10 people in Rupp Friday night

    1. UK Big Board Update

      Shut up…

  15. terwilliger

    Lmao at people saying Green and Quickly aren’t ready for the big time. You’re right… but you’re implying that Hagans is???? Hagans looked completely lost out there. I mean he looked like Ryan Freaking Harrow.

    1. hhrjmoore

      I agree. Hagans is trash. Still trying to act tough late in the game when his man had 33 pts. I see those guys at the court all the time. Richards and PJ will be beasts against small schools and flex everywhere. Then when they play anyone with size and skill they disappear.

  16. Alleykat16

    Hey Cal it’s time for a new gimmick. Because this one ain’t working no more.

  17. Wade

    Stink stank and stunk!!!

  18. Jiminy Crickets

    Calipari has always always always needed the top talent to win. He doesn’t have that anymore, and if next year goes like it looks, he won’t have it next year either. Calipari preaches positionless basketball, but then forces guys to play with back to basket. Duke played open floor, find open teammates and attack the basket. Duke is playing modern basketball with elite talent, UK is playing 2007 basketball with above average talent. Game over

  19. SanDiegoDave

    How many times are you going to post “This was an all systems failure”? I’m sure everyone on this board gets your point without having you restate the obvious