Champions Classic 2018: What we learned from No. 4 Duke’s big win over No. 2 Kentucky

Duke scored early and often against Kentucky on Tuesday.

The No. 4 Blue Devils took control within the first few minutes, scored 59 points before halftime and cruised to a 118-84 victory over the No. 2 Wildcats at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. The 118 points by Duke were the most an opponent has ever scored against Kentucky under John Calipari and it was the team’s worst loss since he took over the program in 2009-10.

Three Duke players scored at least 22 points while freshman Keldon Johnson tallied 23 points for Kentucky in the losing effort.

Here’s what we learned from Duke’s big win:

RJ Barrett is the real deal

RJ Barrett was the top recruit in his class and many expect him to be the first pick in the 2019 draft. He lived up to the hype in his first collegiate game.

Barrett scored 20 points in the first half alone and spearheaded Duke’s offense throughout the night. He attacked the basket off dribble-drives and either finished at the rim or kicked the ball out to open teammates. Barrett also knocked down jump shots as he connected on three of his seven 3-pointers.

R.J. Barrett already making his mark in first game for #Duke.

Barrett finished with 33 points, four rebounds and six assists in the game. It was a strong start for the freshman.

Kentucky needs Travis to be more involved early

Reid Travis was expected to be Kentucky’s best player. But he didn’t play like it against Duke in the first half.

The Stanford graduate transfer made little impact in the opening 20 minutes as the Blue Devils pulled away. While he did finish with 22 points and seven rebounds, most of his buckets came once the outcome was already decided.

Travis was on the Pac-12 All-First Team last season after averaging 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds. Kentucky will have to find a way to get him more involved in the offense moving forward, as he attempted just eight total shots.

Duke will rely on its freshmen

The Blue Devils put on an impressive performance Tuesday. They shot 53.8 percent from the field, knocked down 12 3-pointers and ran away from Kentucky in the first half.

Duke also received major contributions from its other star freshmen outside of Barrett. Zion Williamson was dynamic in the open floor and efficient from the field en route to 28 points, forward Cam Reddish tallied 22 points while point guard Tre Jones dished out six assists.

Zion Williamson throws down the first of many college dunks.

(Via @BBallSociety_)

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The Blue Devils, however, may have issues with their depth going forward as they received very little from their non-freshmen and from their reserves until garbage time. Junior forward Jack White did provide nine points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

It’s no surprise, but it’s clear Duke will again be reliant on its talented freshmen class. 

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