Kentucky Basketball: Wildcats claw and fight, but no answer for Duke’s length

Kentucky vs Duke (Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky vs Duke (Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /
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528. 79. 434. Final. 71

Kentucky basketball opened the 2021-22 game with something we didn’t see all of last season and that was fight and the ability to compete, Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as they fell 79-71 to Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic.

While the outcome tally mark falls in the loss column Big Blue Nation has a lot to look forward to from this team this season and will be a lot of fun to watch along the way.

Both teams were the spotlight game on the opening night of the season and neither was disappointing.

Kentucky basketball just had too many holes to climb out of against Duke

Coach John Calipari is never happy with a loss but when he looks at the tape of the game he will surely love the fight, grit, and determination his squad showed to stay in a game when they just couldn’t get shots to fall all night long in Madison Square Garden. He spoke about it after the game.

"“This team has some guys, I don’t know which guys will do it, but they got to step up. I said they got, their two top-five players played like top-five players. Now if you want to be them, then step your game up. I think we’ll be able to do some of that, but it all starts with fight. I’ve got to do a better job in scheming defensively and what we’re going to do, but I’m like I said, I walk away, I wanted us to compete against ourselves and do stuff — we only had 13 turnovers.”"

A majority of that came from Oscar Tshiebwe who showed what he is capable of but kept sidelined while he had to sit out the spring semester. He was like a caged lion and the ball a piece of meat that the 6-foot-9, 225-pounder kept getting his hands on.

In the end, he led Kentucky with 17 points, 19 rebounds including 12 on the offensive end, two blocks and one assist, and a steal.

It was a catfight from the opening tip with both teams running at a frantic pace up and down the court popping shots, stealing passes, and cleaning the glass.

Kentucky’s poor shooting and inability to get to the foul line kept them playing catchup continuously but the lead never got out of hand. When Duke stretched the advantage the Wildcats roared back and kept it within striking distance.

Calipari saw his team finally get its first lead 42-41 with18:33 to play in the second half on a Keion Brooks 3 pointer from the top of the key on an assist from Sahvir Wheeler.

Kentucky after hitting 13 of 41 field goals in the first half, opened the second half hitting 6 of their first 9 shots.

That was short-lived though after Brooks helped Kentucky regain the advantage at 48-47 on a slam, Duke delivered the real dagger reeling off a 22-6 run and put Big Blue in a deep hole.

Kentucky got as close as 69-65 as Tshiebwe put in eight straight points, but Duke fended off the rally down the stretch.

So what are the quick takeaways? Let’s go.