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Kentucky is very good at basketball again… Just ask Duke

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

Dennis Wierzbicki | USA Today

For only the second time since the 1978 NCAA Championship, Kentucky defeated Duke in a college basketball game. It had been 17 years since the Cats last beat the Blue Devils — that’s one whole Isaac Humphries lifetime — dating back to that unforgettable 1998 comeback.

Needless to say, Duke was due.

Kentucky finally got another one in the win column Tuesday night, cruising past Duke in the Champions Classic, 74-63. It was all UK from start to finish as Cal’s young team proved it is well on its way to a fun and exciting season, playing high-level basketball in only the third game of the year.

For those of you at the computer and not out celebrating like it’s 1998, let’s go over the highs and the lows of the big win.


Tyler Ulis: Point God.

In the wise words of Jay Bilas on tonight’s broadcast, “If you’re good enough, you’re big enough.”

Well, Tyler Ulis is certainly good enough. Kentucky’s point guard had 18 points, six assists, four rebounds and, maybe best of all, ZERO turnovers in the ball game. Ulis proved once again that he is this team’s fearless leader and he will not be held back by his size.

After the game, John Calipari said, “He may not have height, but his heart is five times bigger than most people’s.”

He has the biggest heart on the court at all times, no doubt. He’s a fighter and we should forever be grateful he suits up for the blue and white each game.

Thanks again, Emmanuel Mudiay. We can’t thank you enough.

Keep in mind, Kentucky did this without Skal Labissiere.

The potential No. 1 overall pick in next summer’s NBA draft played only 13 minutes for Kentucky. Thirteen minutes. So you’re telling me Kentucky is 11 points better than Duke, the fifth-ranked team in the country, without its star center? That’s scary.

To be somewhat fair, Labissiere wasn’t a complete absence. He did manage to score seven points and grab four rebounds in those 13 minutes. The other 27 minutes, though — no contribution whatsoever.

Kentucky spotted you that one, Duke.

Jamal Murray is crazy good, but likely to give Cal a heart attack.

As we’ve said many times before, Murray can do things most players can’t do. He’s a special talent and his rise to superstardom is only beginning.

But at the same time, Murray can try to do too much, and it drives John Calipari crazy. He had his share of ball-hog moments against Duke and that behind-the-back pass on the fast break almost got him shipped back to Lexington.

With Murray, we’ll likely have to take the good with the bad. And the good is going to outweight the bad by a lot. I’ll take the occasional selfish, ill-advised three-ball in exchange for three highlight reel buckets, all day long.

This was gorgeous…

Definitely worth losing a tooth on the play.

Duke game Alex Poythress is my favorite Alex Poythress.

I don’t know what Duke did to Poythress early in life but he clearly has it out for the Blue Devils. Poythress packed his elite athleticism, per Calipari’s request, for Chicago and showed flashes of the cliché “beast mode”  fans are dying to see. He’s still not all the way there, but he’s close.

Kentucky’s backcourt is unbelievably good.

Ulis, Briscoe and Murray combined for 46 points, 12 assists, 12 rebounds and eight steals. Together, they’re so strong with the ball it’s nearly impossibly for team’s to force mistakes in a comeback attempt. You will see Kentucky maintain several leads this season because the trio is simply too good to give anything away.

There isn’t a better backcourt in the nation.

Isaiah Briscoe’s mouthpiece is Kentucky’s unsung hero.

If you didn’t catch a glimpse of Briscoe’s mouthpiece, you didn’t watch the game. He left it hanging from his mouth at all times, even during that bucket in the closing seconds of the first half. The damn thing even has its own Twitter account now.

Playing second fiddle to Briscoe’s mouthpiece was Briscoe himself. He played great with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field.

Big double-double for Marcus Lee.

If Marcus Lee can play like he did in this game, Kentucky’s inside presence will be just fine. Lee was all hustle and heart in this one, recording a 10 and 10 game before fouling out with five minutes left.

He’s come a long way since he arrived on campus and he will be crucial to this team’s success.

Isaac Humphries stepped up when called upon.

With Skal Labissiere in serious foul trouble, Isaac Humphries saw playing time early and often. He held his own for a guy who is only 17 years old and playing in one of the biggest games college basketball will see all season. Good, quality minutes from Humphries in his increased role. Future is bright for him on down the road.

Duke’s first fast break basket came with six minutes left in the entire game.

The Blue Devils only scored four more fast break points than you and I did.

Julius Randle’s mom was at the game.


She was there to greet Alex Poythress (wearing a Throwboy Tee) with a hug after the game.

If not for Plumlee 8.0’s early scoring barrage, Kentucky wins this game by a ton.

The final scoreboard is kind to Duke, because this game could’ve been much worse. Kentucky’s offense played near perfect basketball, and if not for Plumlee’s early points and Matt Jones’ hot shooting, this is a 20-point game in favor of Kentucky.

Take your 11-point loss and be happy with it, Dukies.

Coach Cal moves to 11-6 in top-5 matchups.

Only four coaches have more wins in such games.


Duke led for a total of five seconds in the game.

Sheer dominance by Kentucky.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

12 Comments for Kentucky is very good at basketball again… Just ask Duke

  1. Long Dong Silver
    12:28 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    I didn’t realize this, but this team is the best defensive team in the country, per Ken Pomeroy. Teamed with that offense…a smooth team.

    • BigBlue2U
      8:33 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

      Not sure that Pomeroy ratings hold a ton of weight 3 games into the season. That said, we can still be very good defensively but this won’t be a defensive juggernaut as much as it will be a team that can score. Not saying our defense will be bad, though.

    • Leuther
      2:06 pm November 18, 2015 Permalink

      A great defensive team MUST rebound…

  2. bigpops
    12:37 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    Fun team to watch. Guard play is top notch and the bigs allow nothing easy on the initial shot. They can clean up those 2nd chance points they gave up tonight and be one of the very best defensive teams in the country. And even better news…more recruits are headed our way! Too bad the seasons overlap and Cal can’t coach the football team too! He may not even know football but I bet he would hire a special teams coach and always have 11 guys on the field. Hell that in itself would be an improvement. Thank goodness for the basketball program!

    • BigBlue2U
      8:35 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

      What’s football? Stoops and company couldn’t have timed their loss to Vandy any worse. Not only was their ship sinking (now sunk), but it coincided with the start of roundball and now a win over Duke that will have BBN thinking about other things than going to a bad bowl game. Bad, bad timing. Go Big Blue!

  3. Suffering Fools
    7:04 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    Gracie Allen never knew what hit him.

  4. CalsCats3.0
    7:25 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    Ullis also had 0 turnovers playing the entire game. It’s one thing to do this in a platoon system playing 18-20 minutes but 40 minutes being the floor general and never turning it over. He also was listed as getting a block, did not remember that, whoever that was must really feel owned. I am guessing it was Allen as he was blocked all night.

    He went 6-6 from the line, Cal’s teams are known to have free throw issues, great to have the one player who will likely have the ball in his hands in a force foul situation at the end of games to be able to knock them down.

    Despite having our bigs in foul trouble all night, Ullis never fouled once, played the whole game, getting steals and a block and never fouling. He is the man.

  5. Al B. Frank
    7:49 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    “After the game, John Calipari said, “He may not have height, but his heart is five times bigger than most people’s.”

    I’m pretty sure Coach K said that.

    • real True Blue Cat
      9:40 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

      It was K. Also said he had the look of a winner.

  6. Le Docteur
    8:02 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    I’d say Murray almost gave Cal a heart attack LAST NIGHT. But that’s because it made no sense for Murray to settle for 3 pointers when it was obvious that he, Briscoe and especially Ulis could go around Duke’s defenders like they were standing still. There will be other games where Murray nailing 3’s will be essential. But at one point last night, Gracie Allen looked like a Church League guy trying to defend our guards. In college, Guards rule. And we have the best Guards.

  7. theWilkman
    9:06 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    Briscoe did the same thing with his mouth piece in the NJIT game. The entire game. I don’t know how he does it. I also noticed during the NJIT game that he didn’t drink water- he would hold 2 cups, take a swig from one, swish around and spit into the other. Not sure if he did it last night as I wasn’t at that game, but it sure was odd. I did see him take a sip of Gatorade, but that may just be because he was cramping.

    Anyway, great game last night. This team is so fun to watch, and it’s only going to get better.

  8. BobKYCats
    9:24 am November 18, 2015 Permalink

    Defensively, this team’s strength is going to be creating turnovers and getting fast-break points. We still have an inside presence with Lee, Poythress, and Humphries, but not like we had with Towns, Davis, Noel, and Cauley-Stein.

    However, the steal-followed-by-a-layup/lob/dunk game can be just as effective, especially paired with a couple shot-blockers.