TOP 25 REWIND: No. 4 Duke set to climb after Kentucky romp
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Fourth-ranked Duke looked shockingly dominant in a practically flawless performance against a top-5 opponent to start the season.
The Blue Devils sure made a convincing argument to be considered the nation’s best team in the season’s first week: a 118-84 win against No. 2 Kentucky in Tuesday’s Champions Classic in Indianapolis. And that has positioned them to gain ground on top-ranked Kansas when the first AP Top 25 poll of the regular season is released Monday.
The Blue Devils (2-0) followed the Kentucky romp with Sunday’s 94-72 win against Army in its home opener, though they didn’t pull away until midway through the second half.
“We have noticed that we’ve been getting a lot of attention,” Duke freshman Zion Williamson said afterward. “But man, people need to understand that it’s one game. There are about 39 or 40 more games left. You just focus on one game in the past, it’s not doing nothing for you in the future. Game by game for us.”
There were no shortage of highlights in Duke’s dominating opener, which marked the most lopsided win against a top-5 opponent in the program’s tradition-rich history. Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish — Duke’s star freshmen and latest round of potential one-and-done NBA prospects — combined for 83 points to lead the Blue Devils’ free-flowing show of position-less basketball.
Pick just about any stat category, and Duke did it well against John Calipari’s Wildcats. The Blue Devils shot 54 percent from the field and made 12 of 26 3-pointers, shared the ball (22 assists) and took care of it even at their quick pace (four turnovers).
The question is whether this was a best-case show of Duke’s potential, or a sign of things to come for a team that will — somehow — find ways to play better.
“There were a couple of times throughout the game that I felt like we let off on a lot of things,” freshman guard Tre Jones said Friday. “We’ve watched film on the game already and we have picked out on what we need to improve on from that game in particular. And hopefully we’ll do it better next game.”
Duke was one of three ranked teams to beat another Top 25 team in the season’s first week, joining Kansas and No. 11 Auburn.
The Jayhawks beat No. 10 Michigan State 92-87 in the Champions Classic’s first matchup. They started the year at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll for the third time in program history.
As for the Tigers, they dominated No. 25 Washington in the first half and cruised to an 88-66 home win Friday.
Joining Kentucky, Michigan State and Washington among the list of AP Top 25 teams to lose in Week 1 was No. 13 West Virginia, though the Mountaineers were the only ones of that group to lose to an unranked opponent.
West Virginia became the latest upset victim for Buffalo, which beat Arizona and eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Bulls got 43 points and 14 rebounds from CJ Massinburg as West Virginia (0-1) lost its home opener for the first time since November 2003.
Eighth-ranked North Carolina (2-0) won two games against unranked teams, though both came in road games. UNC won at Wofford on Tuesday after an upset home loss to the Terriers last December . Then came Friday’s 116-67 win at Elon, the program’s best scoring output in any game since November 2008.
It marked the first time the program opened a season with consecutive road games since the 1986-87 season.
Third-ranked Gonzaga and ninth-ranked Villanova had blowout victories to headline a Saturday schedule that included wins for No. 16 Syracuse, No. 19 Michigan and No. 24 Purdue. For the Wildcats, beating Quinnipiac marked their 13th straight victory dating to last year’s run to a second national championship in three seasons.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.
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