R.J. Barrett, Duke dominates Kentucky in Champions Classic



It was announced as a battle of equals. Duke did not receive the memo.

Behind the incredible trio of freshmen from RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, the No. 4 Blue Devils scored 59 points in the first half, 59 in the second and scored an amazing 118-84 victory over No. 2 Kentucky in the second. Second game of Tuesday night clbadic. Three thoughts on Duke's revealing victory:

one. R.J. Barrett claims to be the best Duke player with an electrifying debut

If you follow the social networks or the number of mentions of ESPN, Williamson is the most outstanding member of the Duke freshman clbad. But Barrett was the best-ranked recruit in the country, narrowly outperforming two of his teammates, for one reason. On the opening night of the 2018-19 season, he was the best player in a game full of future NBA talents. Kentucky simply did not have an answer for Barrett, who scored 20 points in the first half on his way to 33 at night. Barrett inspired James Harden's comparisons with his ability to get to the basket, shoot from the outside and set up teammates in the transition. The fact that Barrett is left-handed makes the comparison easier, but it is also deserved. Like the current NBA MVP, Barrett has an extraordinary ability to change speed, uses long steps to reach the basket and ends with the contact once he arrives there.

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Barrett had several sequences that may have caused many of the NBA scouts who attended drooling for pleasure. Midway through the opening period, John Calipari chose to try a 2-3 zone with his team already behind 29-11. Barrett calmly drilled one of his three thirteen from the top of the key, then cut the area for a spoon tray on the next possession. Later in the middle, he reversed the order, scoring on a driving tray and drilling a three on trips in a row.

2. Williamson and Reddish (and others) also lived up to the billing, and everyone in Duke's schedule should be terrified

I do not want to overreact to a game, I'm just kidding, of course I do. Here goes: This seems to be the best Duke team. Barrett, Williamson and Reddish could be the three best players in the country. And if this team stays healthy, it could be better than the Kentucky 2014-15 team that started with 38-0. As I said, those are exaggerated reactions. It's a game, and it's not clear how much Kentucky's poor performance contributed to the dotted line (more on that shortly). This team is not going to be undefeated; This year's ACC is much better than the SEC in which the Kentucky team played, with Virginia, North Carolina and Syracuse likely to offer more defensive endurance than the Wildcats on Tuesday night.

Even though it was just a game, it is hard to imagine a more impressive and impressive performance of a team the first day of the season. Williamson was everything he was expected to be, an unstoppable force leading to the basket that also deserves credit for being extremely skilled with basketball. He accelerated his way to 28 points and added 7 rebounds, several of which were the result of Williamson propelling his 285-pound body several feet high and forced the ball. His first basket of the day was one of three points, in which his left-handed shot was smooth. They were the only three that Williamson took all night, as he quickly realized that he could get easier shots on the edge when he wanted to. Williamson even brought out some of the powerful mates for whom he became famous as a high school sensation in South Carolina.

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The fact that Reddish is the third option of this team is absurd. The skinny and dynamic wing contributed 22 points, scored three triples and played an excellent defense, including four steals. One of the most demoralizing moves in the game came when Reddish stole a lazy pbad and shut it at home early in the second half. And it was not just those three. Jones played his role as point guard effectively, sophomore Jack White led the team with 11 rebounds, and great man Marques Bolden scored some of the easy looks he will surely get all year long. Alex O'Connell hit three three from the same corner in the second half. Duke hit 100 points with seven and a half minutes to play. It was an absolutely incredible exhibition.

3. Things will get easier for Kentucky, but there is still a long way to go

Kentucky suffered the worst loss of the John Calipari era when it opened its 2018-19 campaign. Given the way Duke played on Tuesday, it's hard to feel too embarrbaded by the result. Still, Calipari has a ton to work with his team after the Wildcats offered virtually no resistance from the warning until the final whistle. While Duke recovered easily after an easy transition in the transition, Kentucky spent most of the night running a discombobulated halfcourt offense, without enough ball movement or enough shooting. Only two players provided something important in this respect: Reid Travis, who scored 22 points despite being barely involved in the offense from the start, and Keldon Johnson, the freshman who had 23 points. Kentucky threw 4 of 17 from the depth, spun the ball more than 15 times and simply looked like it did not belong on the same floor as Duke. Calipari does not lack questions to answer in the future, but these Wildcats have the talent to improve dramatically and be at the core of things in March. At this time, however, they will only be grateful to get fit in their next game against a team that is not the giant that Duke seems to be.


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