Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dick Vitale [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Duke win puts '11-12 in rearview

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

When you talk about Golaiths in college basketball, it doesn't get much bigger than Duke against Kentucky.

It was senior night in November for the Blue Devils. The senior leadership and experience led Duke to a hard-fought win over Big Blue Nation.

Duke had the advantage coming in with Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry, the trio of seniors having played in many pressure-packed games. The Blue Devils were also the deeper team, and that was also a factor.

I really believe this Duke team plays with a chip on its shoulder. The way last season ended -- with a bad loss to North Carolina, a defeat against Florida State in the ACC tournament, and an early exit against Lehigh in the big dance -- was motivation.

Mason Plumlee, Nerlens Noel
Mason Plumlee's output against Nerlens Noel, center, was key in Duke's win over Kentucky.

At the end of the game Tuesday, Curry made all of the big plays. He wanted the rock in his hand and his experience paid off. Curry made several key free throws and it was smart to get the ball in his hands.

Duke's veteran team will win a lot of games this season. It is better than last year's squad with better depth up front. If the supporting cast can improve, this will be a very dangerous club.

Kentucky has a lot of talent and the thoroughbreds will get better and better as the season rolls on. Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel showed a lot up front. Poythress has an incredible body and did a nice job on the offensive glass. A lot of people will compare Noel to Anthony Davis, last year's Player of the Year. That is unfair since he has played an interior game his entire career. Noel will get on the job training and show more offensive prowess with experience.

The Wildcats at times have to get him more touches inside to improve his offensive skills.

Kentucky did a better job on the boards than it did against Maryland, when the Terps had 25 offensive boards. Versus Maryland, the 'Cats tried to block every shot, leaving gaps for offensive rebounds.

This John Calipari-led team showed its mental toughness, rallying from a double-digit deficit to make it close. Remember, a lot of these Kentucky players were in high school last season. What a difference a year makes.

There are a lot of positives for the 'Cats to take from this.

Both teams had to gain confidence from Tuesday's contest. In the end, Coach K and the Dukies got to the winner's circle.