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Coach K vs. Kentucky: All 8 matchups revisited

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In over four decades of coaching, K has only played Kentucky eight times. Let’s take a look back at those matchups.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 06 State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week, Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced he intends to retire after the 2021-2022 season. In his 42 seasons of coaching he has won more basketball games than any other coach in D1 history and taken the Duke program to way too many Final Fours and national titles for a Kentucky fan to be happy with.

The college basketball landscape will look very different after he steps down. When the 2022 season tips off, Duke will have a new coach, blue bloods North Carolina and Indiana will have second-year head coaches, and UCLA’s Mick Cronin will only be in his third year. And who knows what the NCAA investigation into Kansas will play out for Bill Self.

Before thinking too much about the future, let’s look back at the eight times UK and Duke have clashed with Coach K at the helm. Some of them have been epic.

1. November 19th, 1988: Duke 80, Kentucky 55

An unranked Eddie Sutton Kentucky squad got trounced by Coach K’s #1 Blue Devils. After going into halftime down just two points, Duke ran away with it to cruise to an easy victory.

2. March 28th, 1992 (Elite 8): Duke 104, Kentucky 103 OT

Yeah, we all know this one.

3. March 22nd, 1998 (Elite 8): Kentucky 86, Duke 84

The 1992 UK-Duke game was considered perhaps the greatest basketball game ever, was talked about for years and years, replayed over and over....unless you were a Kentucky fan. Then every time you looked at Duke, you just shook your head and sighed.

Until this game.

Very rarely does a sports team get a second chance or an opportunity to avenge a past loss. Ohio State’s football team is a prime example of a team that did with their win over Clemson last winter, as are the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats.

After trailing by as many as 18 points in the 1st half, Kentucky clawed back throughout the game to eventually take a 1-point lead with 2:15 to play with a big three pointer.

UK fans were on the edge of their seats, barely breathing. If they couldn’t beat Duke in this game, would they ever? Would Duke dethrone them from their spot among the blue bloods?

Trailing 81-80 the ‘Cats sank a free throw to tie it with just over a minute left. Duke missed a jumper and Kentucky calmly dribbled it down the court looking for a shot.

Three pointer. Bang. 84-81 with just over 30 seconds left.

With no timeouts Duke never had a chance to regroup. They missed a three and were forced to foul. Kentucky made the second free throw to go up four, but Duke wasn’t done yet, draining a three to make it a one-point game with 6 seconds left.

Disaster almost struck the Wildcats in these final 6 seconds, as they missed the first of their free throws and Duke geared up to shoot a game-winning three from midcourt. But the shot came nowhere close to the hoop, bouncing off the backboard as the Kentucky celebration began.

Tubby Smith and the Kentucky Wildcats had beaten Mike Krzyzewski for the first time and were going to the Final Four, where they would win the national championship.

4. December 22nd, 1998: Duke 71, Kentucky 60

Exactly nine months after their epic NCAA tournament rematch Duke beat Kentucky by 11 in a nonconference game. Since the 86-84 Kentucky victory, the two teams have not met in the NCAA tournament.

5. December 18th, 2001: Duke 95, Kentucky 92 OT

Another thriller in UK and Duke’s last game against each other for 11 years. Duke guard Jason Williams scored 38 points in a game that echoed the 1992 and 1998 NCAA tournament matchups.

6. November 13th, 2012: Duke 75, Kentucky 68

Seven months after winning their 8th national title, John Calipari got to play Coach K for the first time. It didn’t end well, as their roster was very different after most of the 2012 title players left for the NBA, but considering that this team went on to miss the tournament that March a seven point loss to Duke could’ve been far worse.

7. November 17th, 2015: Kentucky 74, Duke 63

This one is Calipari’s only win over the Blue Devils, and just Kentucky’s second over Coach K. Following the 2014-15 season that saw Kentucky nearly go undefeated but ultimately fall short as Duke won it all, this was a feel-good win to smash the defending champs. It also was arguably the best moment of Kentucky’s 2015-16 season.

8. November 6th, 2018: Duke 118, Kentucky 84

The two blue bloods tipped off their 2018 seasons with a clash against each other in Indianapolis, and Kentucky found out that RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson have to be guarded to be beaten. This blowout made Duke look miles ahead of Kentucky, but both teams fell in the Elite 8 that March, Duke to Michigan State and Kentucky to Auburn. I wonder what would’ve happened if they played each other in that Elite 8...


So there you have it: all eight faceoffs between Coach K’s Duke squads and the Kentucky Wildcats. The winningest tradition in college basketball only beat them twice, but we all know that it’s the tournament games that count the most, in which they went 1-1. Fingers crossed they meet in the NCAAs one last time for Part 3 this season...

Speaking of this season, guess who Kentucky’s going to play in the Champions Classic? Duke! UK will get one more shot at the Blue Devils on November 9th before Mike Krzyzewski retires. Hopefully it looks a lot like the 1992 game.

Go ‘Cats!