#3 KENTUCKY WILDCATS vs. #8 DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Tuesday, November 13, 2012, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
9:30PM Tipoff, ESPN/WatchESPN
At times it was exciting, at times it was ugly, and it even ended up downright surprising at certain points of the game. Despite struggling mightily in the rebounding department, Kentucky was able to gut out a close 72-69 win over the persistent Maryland Terrapins. The task at hand only gets tougher from here as the Cats travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Duke Blue Devils.
Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils will be a lot more stern of a challenge than the upstart and rebuilding Terrapins, boasting an experience-laden team. Another source of concern is the frontcourt duo of seniors Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, who will give UK’s frontcourt a lot more problems than Maryland’s Alex Len, who’ll you remember had a career outing against the young Nerlens Noel, Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein. If Noel has troubles matching up with Plumlee, who had 19 points and 14 boards against Georgia State last Friday, then this could end up being a long night.
Another possible storyline surrounding the Blue Devils is senior guard Seth Curry, who has been dealing with a nagging leg injury. He ended up playing well on Friday, playing 30 minutes and scoring 15 points, but this was against an admittedly subpar Georgia State team. One has to wonder how he’ll perform against top-flight competition in the way of Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays.
Speaking of the frontcourt, the big news surrounding the team is the Ryan Harrow situation. Still suffering from a mystery ailment that severely hampered his play against Maryland, Harrow will not be making the trip to Atlanta. While it’s likely that Goodwin will start the game slotted as the point guard, this could be another golden opportunity for former walk-on Jarrod Polson to shine. Polson came from out of nowhere Friday night when Harrow struggled, putting in career highs in minutes played (22), points (10) and assists (3). And to top it off, with mere seconds left on the clock, who was it shooting clutch, game-winning free throws? Polson. Unlike Maryland, who had no earthly idea the former human victory cigar would come in and play meaningful minutes, the opposition will be scouting him and be ready this time. Can he put in another key performance?
Simply put, the Cats MUST play better tonight if they want to beat Duke. Maryland has some talent, but they’re a rebuilding team who will most likely finish in the middle or towards the rear of the ACC this season. Duke is the direct opposite of that, expected to not only contend for the ACC, but the national championship as well. This will be one of those games that will be a precedent for the “Talent vs. Experience” argument. Seniors Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry aren’t nearly as talented as Noel, Poythress or Goodwin, but they have big-game experience. (Even if it does include getting upset by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAAs last season. Ha. Had to throw that little jab in there.)
Hopefully, the Cats used that embarrassing rebounding game against the Terps as a learning experience, and hopefully they’ve seen the err of their ways. If not, Plumlee and Kelly will end up looking like the second comings of Dennis Rodman (sans wedding dresses and tie-dyed hair).
Glanz-Culver has UK as 1 ½ point underdogs tonight. I think the score will be close and there’ll be several lead changes, but in the end, I think the talent UK has will be too much for Curry and Company, and the Blue Devils will limp back to Durham with their first loss of the season.
KENTUCKY 65, DUKE 62