UK Men's Basketball

Guard trio leads UK to 74-63 win over Duke

A 74-63 victory over dreaded Duke on Tuesday night should give Kentucky fans guarded optimism.

Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Tyler Ulis — a trio of guards expected to lead Kentucky this season — did just that in this telling early-season game.

UK’s version of the Three Tenors scored, defended and led the way. They also impressed Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“All basketball is if you have good guards, you have a chance to win,” Krzyzewski said.

After noting that Murray, Briscoe and Ulis each have point-guard ability, Krzyzewski said, “It’s a dimension that is different. Whenever you have a really good dimension that’s different, that’s very good.”

In what was supposed to be a duel of highly regarded backcourts, the difference in guard play was startling. Murray, Briscoe and Ulis combined for 46 points and 12 assists.

Ulis scored a career-high 18 points and didn’t commit a turnover while playing the entire 40 minutes.

“I admired his presence throughout the game,” Krzyzewski said, “and his face throughout the game. It was a face of a winner and a really good leader.”

UK Coach John Calipari echoed the sentiment.

“You see his leadership on the floor,” Calipari said of Ulis. “You just feel it.”

Briscoe’s 12 points were also a career high. He also began the game guarding Duke’s leading scorer, Grayson Allen, who never looked comfortable. Allen made only two of 11 shots and finished with six points. That was 48 fewer than he scored in Duke’s first two games.

Kentucky, 3-0, trailed for only six seconds as it beat Duke for only the second time in the last nine meetings.

The much-discussed three guards propelled Kentucky to a 37-31 halftime lead. Ulis, Briscoe and Murray made 10 of 17 shots and accounted for 24 points in the first half.

The trio scored 23 of Kentucky’s first 27 points.

That helped nullify the struggles of UK’s front line. Duke, which made only 36.4 percent of its first-half shots, stayed close by hitting the offensive boards. The Blue Devils had a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points.

Marshall Plumlee scored Duke’s first nine points, all coming as the result of offensive rebounds. That prevented Kentucky from building an early lead of more than five points.

UK’s “bigs,” Skal Labissiere and Isaac Humphries, had as many fouls (five) as points (five) in the first half. Each fouled out in the second half.

Calipari voiced no concern about Labissiere’s seven-point, four-rebound performance. “It’s all new to him . . . ,” Calipari said of the freshman. “Skal just needs time on the court.”

Alex Poythress also struggled, making only one of seven shots. He came on in the second half and finished with nine points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Lee gave the Cats a lift late in the half. He had three baskets inside the final 3:27, each coming on dunks (two) or putbacks (one). He also surpassed his previous career high (eight) with nine rebounds before halftime. He finished with his first double-double: 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“He was great,” Calipari said. “I thought he was great.”

That comment was a departure for Calipari in the post-game news conference. Most of the time, he found nits to pick. Even the guards did not escape.

“Our guards were not going in there and cracking down and really taking those guys out,” he said of Duke’s early production around the rim.

Duke had to feel fortunate to be within six points of Kentucky. Allen missed his first nine shots. Most didn’t come close to going in.

Credit Kentucky’s guards, especially Briscoe, who continued to emerge as a stopper.

Kentucky trailed only once fittingly, on an offensive rebound — when Amile Jefferson gave Duke a 20-18 lead.

Duke, which had thrived on opponents’ turnovers, got nothing on the fast break in the first half. The Blue Devils did not score off a fast break until Allen broke free for a layup with 6:10 left in the game.

Murray got Kentucky off to a good start in the second half. He fed Lee for a dunk, then scored on back-to-back possessions.

Krzyzewski summed up Murray succinctly. “Murray is a man,” the Duke coach said.

Labissiere, who did not start the second half, came in at the 16:20 mark and contributed immediately. His putback 20 seconds later gave the Cats their biggest lead yet, 45-36.

When Lee dunked a putback — his 10th rebound — Kentucky had its first double-digit lead at 47-36 with 15:39 left.

Duke rarely got within 10 the rest of the way. UK’s three guards largely kept it that way. In one nine-minute stretch of the second half, the trio either scored or assisted on 16 of 18 points.

When asked how Ulis could play so well while standing only 5-foot-9, Krzyzewski said, “God was good to him. The gene pool was good. They didn’t give him height, but they gave him a heart probably five times bigger than most people.”

No. 2 KENTUCKY 74,

No. 5 DUKE 63

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Lee

22

5-10

0-0

5-10

1

5

10

Labissiere

13

3-5

1-2

2-4

1

5

7

Ulis

40

6-13

6-6

0-4

6

0

18

Briscoe

31

5-8

1-3

0-3

1

1

12

Murray

38

7-17

0-2

3-5

5

2

16

Matthews

7

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Humphries

12

1-3

0-0

2-3

1

3

2

Poythress

30

3-10

3-5

4-7

0

4

9

Willis

7

0-1

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Totals

200

30-67

11-18

17-39

15

21

74

Percentages: FG .448, FT .611. 3-Point Goals: 3-10, .300 (Murray 2-3, Briscoe 1-1, Poythress 0-1, Willis 0-1, Ulis 0-4). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 7 (Humphries 2, Lee 2, Labissiere, Poythress, Ulis). Turnovers: 9 (Murray 3, Labissiere 2, Briscoe, Lee, Humphries). Steals: 9 (Murray 4, Ulis 2, Briscoe 2, Matthews). Technical Fouls: None.

DUKE

Min

FG-A

FT-A

OR-TR

A

PF

PT

Allen

28

2-11

1-3

0-3

1

4

6

Jones

35

5-11

3-4

0-0

2

2

16

Ingram

19

1-6

2-2

0-1

1

4

4

Jefferson

35

7-8

2-4

8-15

0

2

16

Plumlee

36

4-6

4-8

4-10

1

2

12

Jeter

4

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

3

0

Kennard

14

0-5

2-2

1-2

1

0

2

Thornton

29

3-7

0-0

0-3

3

3

7

Totals

200

22-54

14-23

15-39

9

20

63

Percentages: FG .407, FT .609. 3-Point Goals: 5-13, .385 (Jones 3-6, Thornton 1-2, Allen 1-2, Kennard 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 8 (Plumlee 6, Ingram, Jeter). Turnovers: 16 (Allen 4, Ingram 4, Thornton 4, Jefferson 2, Jeter). Steals: 3 (Jones 2, Allen). Technical Fouls: None.

Kentucky

37

37

74

Duke

31

32

63

A—NA. Officials—Doug Sirmons, Roger Ayers, Tony Greene.

Next game

Wright State at Kentucky

8 p.m. Friday (SEC Network)

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