No. 2 Kentucky has more experienced players than No. 4 Duke.
The Blue Devils’ fabulous freshmen collectively laughed as if that mattered on Tuesday night.
R.J Barrett scored 33, Zion Williamson added 28 and Cameron Reddish 22 points as Duke took control of the game and never let up in a resounding 118-84 Champions Classic win over the Wildcats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
No team has ever scored more points against John Calipari-coached Kentucky team.
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The season-opening game between two of the nation’s top five ranked teams set up to be a Final Four preview. It still could be.
But, on the first night of the season, the young Blue Devils (1-0) looked like the best team in the country and left Kentucky (0-1) wondering what just happened.
Starting four freshmen, Duke shot 54 percent while making 12 3-pointers.
In addition to their scoring, the freshmen contributed in other ways. Jones had seven assists while Barrett collected six. Williamson had seven of Duke’s 38 rebounds.
The freshmen had plenty of help from Duke’s inexperienced veterans. Junior Jack White came off the bench to produce nine points and a team-best 11 rebounds.
Duke overwhelmed Kentucky from the game’s opening tip, showing its offensive versatility and efficiency while building a 21-point lead before 10 minutes had been played.
Wildcat fans outnumbered Duke fans at the neutral site venue but their voices were quickly quieted.
Duke’s four freshmen starters scored the Blue Devils’ first four field goals, with Jones, Reddish and Williamson hitting 3-pointers and Barrett a shot in the lane as Duke led 11-4.
Kentucky trailed 11-8 when Duke scored the game’s next nine points in less than two minutes. Reddish hit another 3-pointer, Jones and Bolden hit layups and Barrett ended a fastbreak with a slam dunk to give Duke a 20-8 lead.
When Barrett scored inside at 11:47, Duke had made 11 of its first 19 shots and six Blue Devils had scored to build a 27-10 lead.
Duke lead 34-13 with 10:37 left in the first half.
The Blue Devils found themselves in deep foul trouble as six players, including Reddish, Williamson and Bolden, picked up two fouls each in the first half. That allowed Kentucky to climb back as close as 12 points.
But Duke closed the half getting easy baskets from Barrett, off a pass from Jones, and Bolden, off a pass from Barrett, to lead 59-42 at intermission.
A Williamson layup and Reddish 3-pointer in the first minute of the second half pushed Duke’s lead to 64-42 and caused Kentucky coach John Calipari to call a timeout.
It didn’t matter.
A Reddish steal and slam after play resumed boosted Duke’s lead to 66-42.