Three quick takeaways from Kentucky’s 75-68 loss to Duke:
1. The key stretch was the five-minute span when Duke center Mason Plumlee left the game with his fourth foul at the 16:05 mark. Duke was up 43-37 at the time. Kentucky coach John Calipari tried to force a size advantage, putting Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel into the game together for a twin towers look. Duke countered with 6-foot-8 reserve Josh Hairston.
But Kentucky couldn’t take advantage. Duke outscored the Cats 12-7 with Plumlee on the bench to extend the lead to 55-44 when Plumlee returned at the 10:05 mark.
Twice during that stretch, Duke’s Seth Curry beat UK to the basket on drives. Both times, Kentucky’s shot-blockers went to block the shot, only to miss, allowing Hairston to clean up with follow baskets. The first made it 45-39 Duke. The second made it 54-42 Duke.
Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon hit a key three in that stretch for the Devils.
Plumlee was out for eight possessions, and Duke scored on six of those possessions.
2. Hello, Alex Poythress. The Nashville native played like the Alex Poythress we had heard about, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds. He skied for some of those rebounds as if on a pogo stick. He also threw down some emphatic dunks.
“He’s a beast,” said John Calipari afterward. “That’s what we want him to be, a beast. He’s not a two-guard. He’s a beast. That’s what he should be.
Asked if he felt like a beast, Poythress said, “Sometimes.”
“It’s hard to be a beast,” Calipari said.
I had Poythress with four dunks Tuesday night, but he also hit a three in the first half from a left corner. He has the range of a two-guard when he needs it. He can be the total package. He showed a good deal of that tonight.
3. There is still the Ryan Harrow mystery. Calipari said after the game that the sophomore guard tried to work out today in Lexington, but the coach was vague about the details. When asked whether Harrow might have mono, Calipari said he had not gotten the results back from the blood tests conducted Monday.
Archie Goodwin started at point, and Calipari said he was basically happy with the way the freshman played. Goodwin did have four assists with his four turnovers. Jarrod Polson played 12 minutes and did fine on the offensive end, but he had trouble containing Curry on the defensive side of the ball.
4. Ok, we’re adding an extra. It wasn’t just the atmosphere that was excellent in the Georgia Dome, where 22,847 showed up to watch the Kansas-Michigan State, Kentucky-Duke doubleheader. For so early in the season, the level of play was excellent as well.
Michigan State pulled out the first game, outscoring Kansas 13-5 over the final five minutes for a 67-64 victory. And Duke survived Kentucky in the second.
Mike Krzyzewski described the setting for this Champions Classic series as tremendous, both last year in Madison Square Garden and this year at the Georgia Dome.
“Which is why we wanted to be a part of it,” Coach K said.