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Duke dominated Kentucky in their season opener on Tuesday night, laying waste to the No. 2 team in the country, 118-84 in a game that wasn’t even that close. RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish all went over 20 points in their college debuts, with Barrett’s 33 points and Williamson’s 28 points surpassing Marvin Bagley’s 25 points from last year that was a Duke freshman record for scoring in a debut.
The 118 points were Duke’s second-most versus a ranked opponent — Duke beat No. 12 UCLA, 120-84, on Feb. 22, 1998 — and was a complete surprise to anyone who predicted the game before it started. It was a statement game for the young Blue Devils, who had a number of questions surrounding them coming into the season — most of which were answered in Tuesday night’s game.
The junior will be a key piece off the bench for Duke this season, doing the dirty work required for championship teams to perform at their peak. But he’s more than just a muck it up hustle guy after a body transformation this offseason. White logged career highs in points (nine), minutes (30) and rebounds (10) as the Blue Devils dealt with foul trouble for nearly the entire game against Kentucky. Being named a captain was clearly no fluke, as White will be an integral, veteran piece off the bench for Duke in his third year in Durham.
BOLDEN IMPRESSIVE AS STARTER
There was some questions as to whether Bolden or Javin DeLaurier would be the starter at center for Duke this season, especially after Bolden did not score in three games in Canada and has looked disinterested for most of his college career. But the former five-star recruit jumped at halfcourt when the game tipped off, and then scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds in 26 minutes against the Wildcats. His defense and rebounding were crucial for Duke’s success, but more importantly he looked like he was having fun out there.
DECISION ON TAP FOR ELLIS
Four-star guard Boogie Ellis, fresh off an official visit to Duke two weekends ago, will be announcing his college decision on Friday night at 7 p.m. Pacific. All signs point to Ellis choosing Duke, who came to his recruitment late after missing on Josiah James, and giving the Blue Devils the backcourt recruit they need in the 2019 recruiting class. If he does choose Duke, it will be an impressive recovery for the coaching staff, as it looked to be reeling after James and Bryan Antoine decided elsewhere before even officially visiting Duke’s campus.
FOOTBALL BOWLING AGAIN
With the upset win over Miami last weekend, David Cutcliffe cemented bowl eligibility for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. While it’s been an adventure getting to six this year, Duke making the postseason with three games remaining takes some pressure off heading down the stretch. Now they’re just fighting for better bowl placement with home games against North Carolina and Wake Forest and a road trip to Clemson left on the schedule.
INJURIES AND RECOVERIES
Linebacker Ben Humphreys went down with an injury during the Virginia game, becoming the 12th member of the roster with starting experience to miss a game for the Blue Devils this season. Humphreys joined offensive tackle Jaylen Miller, running back Brittain Brown, cornerback Michael Carter II, defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord, cornerback Mark Gilbert, center Zach Harmon, safety Jordan Hayes, quarterback Daniel Jones, defensive end Drew Jordan, safety Jeremy McDuffie, linebacker Koby Quansah and wide receiver Aaron Young. Now, fellow starting linebacker Joe Giles-Harris is in danger of missing Saturday’s game against UNC after leaving the Miami game late with a knee injury.
Duke has beaten North Carolina two years in a row and are looking for their third straight win in the series for the first time since 1987-1989. Cutcliffe has won four of the last six games against Larry Fedora and the Blue Devils head in to this rivalry matchup as 10-point favorites. The programs are moving in opposite directions, with UNC looking at a 1-7 record (after a 3-9 record last year).
Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.