MIKE Krzyzewski’s farewell tour started with a win thanks to his latest group of stellar freshmen at Duke.
Trevor Keels scored 25 points and classmate Paolo Banchero added 22 to help the No. 9 Blue Devils open their coach’s final season by beating 10th-ranked Kentucky 79-71 on Tuesday night in the nightcap of the Champions Classic.
“It was an amazing game that felt so good with the Garden crowd and playing against an outstanding team,” Krzyzewski said. “They are tough, and we are tough. That was a big-time game. Really big time.”
Krzyzewski announced that he would retire at the end of the season. The Hall of Famer has won 1,098 games and five national championships in his 42 years coaching the Blue Devils. Overall he has 1,171 wins, the most in the history of the sport.
“We wanted to get this win for Coach in this first game,” Banchero said. “We had a chance to make a statement with this game and come out and play well. That’s what we were thinking about coming in.”
The two basketball blue bloods, who have quite the history between them on the game’s biggest stage, put on a spectacular show to open the season. The loud split crowd at Madison Square Garden that included many members of the New York Knicks and Bruce Springsteen was on its feet for most of the second half.
Duke, which led by four at halftime, built the advantage to 15 with just under 10 minutes left behind Keels. The Wildcats wouldn’t go away, scoring the next 11 points to get to 69-65 on a three-point play by Oscar Tshiebwe with 6:07 left.
That’s as close as Kentucky could get.
“We got it to four and then we’ll watch the tape,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Two shots blocked. All I said all week is if you drive, don’t get it blocked.”
Keels scored on the Blue Devils’ next possession and Banchero followed with a three-point play after a huge block by Mark Williams to start a 7-0 run.
Kentucky only got within six the rest of the way.
“We’re never going to back down from a fight, we’ll always play to the end,” said Kentucky’s Jacob Toppin.
Tshiebwe finished with 17 points and 19 rebounds. Sahvir Wheeler added 16 points and 10 assists for the Wildcats. (AP)