- The No. 4 Duke Blue Devils routed second-ranked Kentucky, 118-84, Tuesday night to deal Wildcats head coach John Calipari the worst defeat of his career at any level.
- Duke’s freshman class – complete with the top-three recruits in the class of 2018 – outscored the entire Wildcats roster by a five-point margin.
- Both AP preseason All-America selection R.J. Barrett and social media sensation Zion Williamson broke the previous scoring record for a Duke freshman in their debut with 33 and 28 points, respectively.
At the beginning of the college basketball season, blowout contests are par for the course. Fans are used to watching the top teams in the country annihilate no-name squads in what amount to glorified exhibition games for the majority of November.
This year was supposed to be different. The Champions Classic kicked off the 2018-19 college basketball season with a pair of games matching up top-10 teams that were expected to be competitive.
But the Duke Blue Devils still managed to secure an early season blowout, and it came against the No. 2 team in the country.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils dealt head coach John Calipari the worst defeat of his career at any level Tuesday night with a 118-84 rout of his Kentucky Wildcats. The marquee matchup between Duke and the Wildcats – who were co-favourites to win the 2019 NCAA Championship heading into Tuesday night’s contest – became a show for the Blue Devil freshmen who comprised the nation’s best recruiting class of the year and maybe ever. Duke’s freshmen outscored the entire Kentucky roster with a combined 89 points on the night.
AP preseason All-America selection R.J. Barrett erupted for 33 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds to break the previous scoring record for a Blue Devil freshman in their debut. In just 23 minutes on the floor, social media sensation Zion Williamson also surpassed that 25-point benchmark set by Marvin Bagley III against the Elon Phoenix last season with 28 points and 7 rebounds.
Heading into the season, the biggest question surrounding Williamson was whether or not he could actually shoot. He silenced his naysayers early, sinking a three-point attempt for the first points of his college career and shooting a whopping 85 per cent from the field on the night.
And, of course, he added more highlights from there:
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 7, 2018
Alright, Zion. Alright. pic.twitter.com/m1Fk1pMvcF
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 7, 2018
GET USED TO SEEING THIS! ???? pic.twitter.com/QcAIGnVEh2
— ESPN (@espn) November 7, 2018
Classmates Cam Reddish and Tre Jones proved themselves in their debuts as well. Reddish – a sharpshooting small forward and the No. 3 recruit in the class of 2018 – notched 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor and drained three shots from beyond the arc. Jones – a five-star point guard and the younger brother of Duke 2014 national champion Tyus Jones – dropped a game-high seven dimes in the trouncing of what was universally considered one of the best teams in the country.
“When you start four freshmen, no matter how talented they are, you don’t know what they are going to do in this environment against an outstanding team and a great program,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, per Steve Wiseman at The News & Observer. “And they responded. They were magnificent tonight.”