Duke Basketball: Takeaways From Loss to Kentucky


Duke suffered their first loss of the season last night as the Blue Devils fell to #2 Kentucky 74-63 in the Champions Classic. Even though the loss was disappointing, this team showed some flashes of what they are capable of and will improve as the season progresses. Here are some things we saw from the game that could help Duke get better:

1. This year’s team captains are solid.

More from Duke Basketball

In Duke’s first big game of the year, the leaders of the team played extremely well. Marshall Plumlee started it off scoring the first 9 points for Duke off of offensive rebounds, and the three captains scored all but 5 of the Blue Devils’ 31 points in the first half and were the only scorers for Duke until about 3 minutes before halftime. Plumlee finished with a near triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Amile Jefferson also dominated with 16 points and 15 rebounds and Matt Jones also added 16 points.

2. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram were missing.

While the team captains led the Blue Devils, the two stars really struggled in their first game against a ranked team. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram were both the most heralded Blue Devils this preseason, but they both combined for 0 points in the first half and 10 for the entire game on 3-17 shooting. The offense this year will rely heavily on these Allen and Ingram, but Kentucky was able to lock them down defensively throughout the game. Several times it seemed like the team would alternate between Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram isolating and going one-on-one or pick-and-roll plays with Plumlee or Jefferson, which won’t work repeatedly against a tough defense like UK. Once these two gain experience playing together then the offense will instantly improve

3. Duke really needs Thornton to start.

More from Ball Durham

The only other player to score for Duke in the first half was Derryck Thornton‘s 5 points off the bench. The freshman is the only true PG on the roster, and while the coaching staff is still looking for improvement as he still learns the offense, eventually Thornton will need to be the primary ball-handler with the starting lineup. He finished with probably his best performance so far this year and also played the most minutes for Duke in the game other than the three captains. He will also be able to open up the offense and help eliminate the Allen/Ingram iso plays mentioned above.

Additionally, turnovers were a huge problem for Duke who committed 16 total, including 4 apiece from Thornton, Ingram, and Allen, while the Wildcats only had 9. Once he’s ready to start, the offense will be able to move much smoother rather than the current situation switching between Grayson Allen and Matt Jones bringing the ball down. Thornton also led the team with 3 assists, but the Blue Devils overall only had 9 total which will need to improve as the season progresses.

4. Bench needs to play better.

Coach K seems to have already shortened the lineup for this season, with freshmen players Thornton, Luke Kennard, and Chase Jeter the only Blue Devils to receive playing time off the bench. There was very little production from the reserve players this game, only totaling 9 points (7 from Thornton). Both Jeter and Kennard did not make a shot from the field, and forward Jeter did not attempt a shot, grabbed no rebounds, and committed 3 fouls in 4 minutes. Duke will need these players to be better to take the load off of the starters and provide depth for the team.

If the Blue Devils are able to do all of these things, then they will be fine for the rest of the season. Right now the team needs to regroup and prepare for a match-up with VCU this Friday in the semifinals of the 2K Classic in New York City’s Madison Square Garden for another game in the spotlight. Be sure to keep checking out Ball Durham for all your Duke news and analysis