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Kentucky blitzed by Duke: 4 things we learned and postgame banter

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Kentucky’s season begins with a thud.

Reid Travis Jamie Boggs - Sea of Blue

Tuesday night’s Champion’s Classic played host to the Kentucky Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils in the night game of the 2018-2019 season’s debut.

Despite being the favorite to win, as well as the higher-ranked team, the Wildcats crumbled early as the Blue Devils could not be stopped on the offensive end of the court.

Head coach John Calipari and his team were relatively embarrassed in the first half, falling behind 59-42. In blowout fashion, the Blue Devils maintained a firm grip on their lead to win the decision, 118-84.

Keldon Johnson Was Built for the Moment

Johnson came out with a mission, taking control of Kentucky’s offense by consistently driving hard to the basket. Scoring 12 first half points, Johnson finished the game with 23 points on 16 shots.

Johnson looks to be Kentucky’s alpha-male going forward, but will need much more assistance if the Wildcats wish to seriously compete against quality teams throughout the season.

Duke Appears Superior to Everyone

The Wildcats appeared to be the perfect matchup agains the Blue Devils. Overall athleticism, depth and experience was said to play an advantage for Kentucky in Tuesday’s outing. However, that was far from the case.

Duke led out early and never looked back in their route over Kentucky. Their three-headed monster, consisting of the top-three overall recruits in the 2018 class, wrecked havoc on Calipari’s defense.

While there is much basketball to be played, Duke looks as if they’re a clear-cut above every other team in the country.

Reid Travis Needs the Rock

Travis didn’t receive a single touch in the first seven minutes of the game, which was the likely cause of Kentucky falling behind so quickly. Errant shot selection allowed Duke to run in transition, while feeding Travis in the paint would have slowed down the game’s tempo.

While Kentucky fed him the ball in the second half, en route to a 22 point/seven rebound effort, the decision was too late as Kentucky’s deficit was simply too steep to overcome.

The graduate transfer is the “old man” of the team and arguably the team’s best, most poised player. As the season moves along, Calipari will have to make an agenda of getting the veteran big man as many touches as possible.

Transition Defense Can Only Improve

Though shot selection and over-crashing the offensive glass didn’t help Kentucky’s transition defense, their lack of effort didn’t exactly bolster their efficiency (or lack there of) when defending Duke’s transition offense.

The Blue Devils ran wild in the open court, scoring 26 points in that aspect throughout the game.

Kentucky has all of the attributes to play 40 minutes of defense, but only time will tell when they decide to put all of the pieces together.

The Wildcats have a quick turnaround this week, returning home to host Southern Illinois at Rupp Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 pm EST.