INDIANAPOLIS — After No. 2 Kentucky suffered a 118-84 loss to No. 4 Duke on Tuesday in the Champions Classic, the worst loss of his coaching career at any level, John Calipari said he told his team he had been outdone by rival Mike Krzyzewski.
“They were just better than us,” Calipari said. “I told [my team], ‘I got outcoached, you guys got outplayed. We’ll watch the tape and move on.'”
Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett combined to score 83 points. Freshman point guard Tre Jones, the younger brother of former Duke star Tyus Jones, finished with seven assists and zero turnovers. The Blue Devils made 46.2 percent of their 3-point attempts.
Calipari had previously suffered a 33-point loss to West Virginia while he was at UMass and a 32-point loss during his time in the NBA. But the 34-point loss on Tuesday night was the worst of his coaching career.
Krzyzewski said he was pleased with his collection of freshmen, a group that includes three players with the potential to claim the top three spots in next summer’s NBA draft.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” he said. “You start four freshmen, no matter how talented they are, you never know what they’re going to do in this environment against an outstanding team and great program. And they responded. They were magnificent.”
Duke blew the game open early and silenced the Kentucky-clad crowd with a 34-13 start. The Wildcats never recovered.
The two programs have battled for talent throughout the one-and-done era, with Krzyzewski claiming the top incoming class, as rated by ESPN, in four of the past five seasons.
This year’s Duke team could prove to be one of Krzyzewski’s best.
“They’re a very good team,” Calipari said. “If they play like that, they’re not losing many, if that’s who they are.”