Duke vs. Kentucky 9:30 p.m., ESPN

Duke veterans set for young Kentucky team

Tuesday’s game in Atlanta will be a study of contrasts, with youth taking on experience

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 13, 2012 

  • Duke vs. Kentucky When: 9:30 p.m. Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta TV/radio: ESPN/ WKIX-102.9 FM Projected starting lineups Duke G Tyler Thornton 13.0 ppg 3.0 apg G Seth Curry 15.0 ppg, 1.0 apg G Rasheed Sulaimon 6.0 ppg, 4.0 apg F Ryan Kelly 8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg F Mason Plumlee 19.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg Kentucky G Archie Goodwin 16.0 ppg, 2.0 apg G Ryan Harrow 0.0 ppg, 2.0 apg F Alex Poythress 8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg F Nerlens Noel 4.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg F Kyle Wiltjer 19.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg Player to watch Ryan Kelly, senior, Duke Kelly will match up against Kentucky’s Wiltjer, a 6-foot-10 sophomore. The rangy big men are similar, and Kelly will have to use the length of his 6-11 frame to neutralize Wiltjer. Kelly said he has been working on his consistency, something the Blue Devils need from him to be successful. He was 0-of-7 from the floor in Duke’s final exhibition, and he went 2-for-6 and scored eight points against Georgia State. Duke needs more from its second-best outside shooter. Observations: Duke has not been a strong rebounding team in its past two games and was outrebounded by Georgia State 33-31. The Blue Devils only had six offensive rebounds for eight second-chance points. Kentucky allowed Maryland to collect 28 offensive rebounds Friday, but the Terrapins only generated 19 second-chance points off those opportunities and lost 72-69. … While at Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski is 4-1 against Kentucky. The teams last played each other Dec. 18, 2001, when the Blue Devils won in overtime 95-92.

— When Duke tips off against Kentucky at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in Atlanta, it will be a study of contrasts, with youth taking on experience.

Kentucky is so young that the Blue Devils had to search for film to study as they prepared for their early season test against the freshman-heavy Wildcats.

“We were even watching film of their Blue and White scrimmage,” Mason Plumlee said. “I don’t think you can look at it and just define their team right away because it is so early in the season.”

The No. 3-ranked Wildcats (1-0) start three top-rated freshmen in guard Archie Goodwin and forwards Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress. Another highly touted newcomer, Willie Cauley-Stein, will see significant time as well.

No. 9 Duke (1-0) will counter with three starting seniors in Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry.

“Older, really good players are the best thing a coach can have in college right now,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in the preseason. “You always want the young, great player, but if the seniors are outstanding and they have game experience and are 22 or 23 years old, which our guys are, it gives a different dimension to your team.”

When asked for thoughts about Duke, the first description Kentucky coach John Calipari used was “veteran.” Plumlee and Kelly played on Duke’s 2010 national championship team, and Curry practiced with the group while sitting out after transferring from Liberty. Since then, there have been numerous other high-profile games for Duke upperclassmen.

In last season’s Champions Classic victory against Michigan State (more notable for being Krzyzewski’s 903rd win, making him college basketball’s all-time wins leader), Curry scored 20 points in Madison Square Garden. A few weeks later, in the Maui Invitational, Tyler Thornton, who will likely start at point guard, made two late 3-pointers to help beat Kansas.

The core of the Wildcats have only played in one college game, a 72-69 win over Maryland in Brooklyn last week. And Kentucky will likely play without starting guard Ryan Harrow, a former N.C. State player who has been unable to practice since the game because of flu-like symptoms. Harrow had blood work done Monday in an attempt to find out why he has been lacking energy.

As a sophomore, Harrow was one of the most seasoned Wildcats. The youngsters are still getting used to the college game setting.

“I could feel the crowd’s vibrations and how loud it was,” Cauley-Stein said about the Maryland game . “It was my first time in a big college game like that, with all the people, and playing as a new center.”

Cauley-Stein and fellow freshman Noel are key components of the Wildcats’ frontcourt, which struggled against the Terrapins. The Wildcats gave up 28 offensive rebounds to the Terrapins. It’s a skill the group hadn’t had time to practice outside of scrimmages.

“There are so many things to work on because we’re freshmen that makes it hard,” Calipari said. “We thought, ‘because we’re so big and long, we’ll be able to rebound.’ Well, if you don’t work on it, they don’t know it.”

The Wildcats’ rebounding woes provide an opportunity for Kelly and Plumlee. And while that pair attempts to control the low post, Curry and a few other veteran shooters will be waiting on the perimeter.

That thought, more than any other, doesn’t sit well with Calipari.

“If they come out and make 20 of 25 3s, we’re done,” he said. “We’ll come out and tap them on the butt and we’ll go home.”

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