Indianapolis, IN — The No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (1-0) had as great as a debut as you’ll probably ever see in college basketball as they blew out the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats, 118-84.
The rave coming into this game was the fact that fans were going to be seeing some of the best freshmen in the country battle it out from both teams in what could possibly be a National Championship game come March. For a stretch in the first half, the points that were scored in the ballgame were all scored by freshmen. In fact, one of the reasons the Blue Devils won this game is because their freshmen were better, faster and stronger than anything the Wildcats had to offer.
The star freshmen for Duke in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish aren’t freshmen — they’re grown men with unique playing styles that are absolutely scary. You would’ve thought that playing inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the bright lights on and at the State Farm Champions Classic, they would’ve made the typical freshmen mistakes. That did not happen in this game.
Barrett in the contest showed that his game throughout is going to have a mix of finesse but he’s also going to have the strength to go up amongst taller defenders and still get good looks at the rim. He hit the outside shot, knocked down multiple three-point shots in the game, as well as did a great job getting into the lane, absorbing contact and finishing at the rim.
He finished the contest with 33 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Barrett broke the Duke freshmen debut point total set by now Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III (25-points).
Then Reddish, who even though Williamson and Barrett are going to be the guys that everyone will rave over, you can’t forget that he was also a top recruit coming out of high school. Reddish had a very nice outing in the ball game with 22 points, two rebounds, three assists, and four steals. He did a great job playing the passing lane and converting his steals into easy points for himself and his teammates.
Reddish is going to be that player that may lead the team in scoring at times when Williamson and Barrett don’t get it going and Duke is going to look to him to get some shots. He’s going to be a guy who sneaks up on you in the stat column because you’re so focused on the other two star freshmen.
Williamson… this kid is something else. He finished the game with 28 and seven rebounds on 11-of-13 shooting. Williamson’s 28 points also broke the debut point total for a first-year player at Duke. Williamson, not just in this game, but all season he’s going to make plays that make you say, wow. For a guy to be that big but that light on his feet and making the plays that he makes is absolutely magical to watch.
He did whatever he wanted to do on the floor tonight. He has about 20-30 lbs. on everyone else that’s guarding him and he’s driving to the bucket with ease. And Williamson sees the floor very well and if he’s out on the open floor… watch your head!
The three freshmen combined had 83 of Duke’s 118 points, however, not only did the freshmen have a good showing, but the entire team did as well.
As a team, the Blue Devils took really good care of the basketball, only turning it over four times. It was amazing to see how unselfish this team was as well playing together out on the floor. Duke has a lot of star power but even the star players, who are used to having the ball in their hands, were very unselfish as the team combined for 22 assists.
Duke also seemed to be very composed and poised from top to bottom as each player seemed to understand their role and is comfortable in it. Another freshman, Tre Jones, had six points and seven assists with no turnovers were huge for the Blue Devils. Also to have guys like Alex O’Connell come off the bench and knock down threes is going to be something that Duke will thrive on.
Duke also did a great job defensively as they held the Wildcats to only 44 percent shooting. They did an outstanding job forcing Kentucky to turn the ball over as the Wildcats had 15 turnovers. The Blue Devils forced the Wildcats to play their game tonight as Kentucky could not get into transition, and Duke ran their three-point shooters off the three-point line and forced them to come inside where the Blue Devils were able to force them to take and make tough shots.
Duke made a statement tonight. They probably feel that they shouldn’t be the No. 4 team in the nation and I don’t blame them, because they played like the No. 1 team.