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A Closer Look At The First Half Of Duke-Kentucky

Lots of good stuff there

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Duke
Nov 9, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) looks to pass as Kentucky Wildcats forward Keion Brooks Jr. (12) defends during the second half at Madison Square Garden. 
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few things we noticed in the first half of the Duke-Kentucky game on closer inspection:

  • 17:58: Sahvir Wheeler is at a size disadvantage in this game but not quickness. This is a gorgeous move and pass. Mark Williams totally bit on the fake.
  • 17:42: Keels is committed to the drive here and Oscar Tshiebwe makes him eat it. Not many guys could have made this pass blind but Paolo Banchero was wide open. That’s Magic Johnson level though.
  • 16:35: Watch how quickly Tshiebwe recognizes he needs to screen. Love that guy. Nolan Smith is screaming “call it out!” as Jeremy Roach takes a hard hit. Also, watch Banchero when he ends up on Washington as the shot clock runs down.
  • 16:47: Banchero gets a below-the-shoulder rebound. He has a real knack for that.
  • 15:34: Banchero has a really nice spin move that looks like he’ll be using a lot. He’s drawn two fouls in the first 4 12 minutes or so of the game.
  • 15:20: Watch how agile Keels is guarding the much smaller Washington. Amazing really.
  • 13:34: This is where Trevor Keels really announces himself. Watch Washington literally bounce off of him.
  • 12:35: Okay we need a new term...power point? Except this is a finesse play..well at the end. Washington plays pinball again off of Keels near the UK bench first.
  • 12:29: Banchero is an enormous talent but we’d like it better if he crashed the boards more. He tends to watch when a shot goes up. Correctible but still.
  • 12:17: Williams nearly strips Washington in the open court then Moore does strip Wheeler who has a few things to say on the way by. They - or at least Wheeler - makes this an ongoing theme.
  • 12:07: Calipari takes Washington out. He was getting rattled by this point.
  • 12:00 Jacob Toppin takes his second goofy shot of the half. He made the first one; this one airballed. This is what we meant when we said Calipari’s forwards are erratic. This sort of thing. The Machine (aka Tshiebwe) cleaned it up.
  • 11:40: Toppin turns his back on Banchero. Ball-you-man! Again, plenty of talent at forward for Cal but not always the smartest. Banchero flits into the lane for a big dunk.
  • 11:22: Everybody loves The Machine but sometimes his inexperience shows. This was odd. Again, as we’ve seen often already, the ball seems to fall into Banchero’s hands. It’s not blind luck. It’s because he’s where the ball is going. You can tell people that but to do it is instinctive - and it makes the game a lot easier.
  • 10:17: Okay, this is pretty amazing. Theo John rushes up to screen Wheeler...but look at Wheeler’s head and neck. It’s like he ran into a concrete pole. Seriously! That one might hurt in the morning. It was a major shock. If you saw our comments about John’s court scan in the exhibition game, this is another thing worth watching closely. Poor Wheeler. Man!
  • 9:31: Keion Brooks thought it was a good idea to drive on Theo the Lion. Bad move. The Machine gets the board but misses the follow. He just needs more reps. Baby Moses! El Léon gets the board.
  • 9:05: Okay, Joey Baker missed the shot. But last year? He wouldn’t have tried.
  • 8:45: Bryce Hopkins takes a nice pull-up and misses. But watch Keels here. The Machine gets the rebound but only because it bounced out. Keels did a great job getting in position.
  • 7:58: This might be the play of the game for UK in a sense: Washington takes a deep three off a screen by Tshiebwe. Not one UK player is in position for the rebound. Every single one is behind the three point line. No matter! The Machine still got in the lane and almost got the rebound (Moore knocked it out). We’ll bet Cal rewinds about six times.
  • 7:53: More erratic wing play: Watch as Brooks bobbles a nice inbounds pass in the lane. Note the discipline by Banchero who starts with his hand up and jumps straight up - no leaning - to contest. Brooks somehow ends up in the backcourt, Washington hasn’t bothered to get inbounds and The Machine picks up his second for shoving to get to the board. Lots to talk about there but a microcosm of this UK team currently.
  • 7:27: It’s almost impossible to describe this sequence but it starts with Wheeler trying to get around John and tripping. He loses his balance, Keels keeps a steady, well, you know what and knocks it loose, John picks it up and gets it to Banchero who accidentally kicks it back to Toppin who falls down trying to corral the ball. Then Roach picks it up and takes it in. In Florida, Dickie V is losing his mind while Lorraine is reminding him he has a damn port in and could he please not lose his mind? Awesome, baby!
  • 6:56: Wheeler gets his revenge on Moore with a deep three as Duke has some minor confusion on D.
  • 6:39: Moore and Wheeler are going at it. Watch Wheeler wrap Moore up then crowd him in the lane. Note to Wheeler: Moore is nine inches taller. You’re not going to stop him in the lane - and he didn't. Got a foul instead. It’s fun to watch this but he has a hard time getting much out of Moore, who is stoic.
  • 5:31: After John bobbles a pass from Moore, he and Lance Ware get physical as UK heads downcourt. They had a little heat going that carried over into the following play...first John is talking some smack to Ware who sees a chance to respond via dunk...but blows it.
  • 5:00: Banchero heads in and probably should have gone with his left. But Brooks fouls which underscores something we’ve been saying about UK for several days: while Brooks, Toppin, Collins Hopkins and Ware are talented, none of them are particularly skilled and they make a lot of bad decisions. Cal knows it too, which is why Collins, despite immense talent, played just two minutes. He’s too risky. We should follow up on something else too. In our preview we said we had a prediction but we would tell someone else and talk about it later. So let’s do that now: we thought there was a chance Duke would just kill Kentucky and when they were up 15, it looked like they might. Cramps made that less likely, along with great effort from Kentucky. We didn’t want to seem wildly optimistic or cocky but that’s what that was about.
  • 4:49: Well that was ugly.
  • 4:30: By the time Banchero actually shoots, Kentucky is totally confused. He’s backpedaling because he knows it’s in. Amazing play by a 6-10 guy.
  • 3:41: Gorgeous pass by Wheeler here. Toppin finally takes a wise shot.
  • 3:12: Duke’s only three of the night if you can believe it. Keels.
  • 2:13: Blakes gets his first three point attempt and whiffs. If he had let Wheeler go by he would have had an easy open shot. To quote Dean Smith: “Freshmen!”
  • 1:48: Watch how quickly Banchero passes here. Nice! However it hit the backboard, not Williams. He recovered it anyway but was under the basket and Ware fouled him. In a few years, Williams will dunk that. Now? Still too thin.
  • 1:37: Toppin must really like off-balance shots. WTF? He can’t get enough. Banchero is close enough to defend but just lets him shoot it. Why not? It’s a terrible shot.
  • 1:17: The tables turn: Banchero, who plays under control almost always, makes a stupid drive here, charging into Toppin. It’s a rarity with this guy who so far has been incredibly smart. Meanwhile, Roach was open in the corner.
  • 1:03: Keels. Causes. Chaos. And again, Washington can’t deal with the bigger, stronger opponent.
  • 41.5: Again, Baker would never have done this last year and he almost hit it. But Baker on the line is easy money.
  • 35.5: The People’s Champ is begging: call out the screen! Call out the screen! As Roach takes a (clean) hit from Ware. Wheeler gets a nice drive but he’s little and Theo the Lion pounces on the way down.
  • 7.0: Ware has a terrific block but lacked awareness of where he was and came down with the ball on the line. So basically a turnover.