ATLANTA -- The team with more seasoning prevailed in an early-season test of top-10 teams, but No. 9 Duke still got a big shot in the arm from a freshman of its own in downing No. 3 Kentucky, 75-68, in the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome.
Guard Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6-foot-4 freshman from Houston, made three second-half 3-pointers to help power the Blue Devils (2-0), finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Duke's Seth Curry led all scorers with 23 and teammate Mason Plumlee scored 18. The freshman trio of Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin led Kentucky (1-1) with 20, 16 and 16 points, respectively.
The game featured a contrast in styles, with Duke benefiting from three senior starters: Plumlee, Curry and Ryan Kelly while Kentucky is largely rebuilt from last season's national championship team that had six players selected in June's NBA Draft. Freshmen Noel, Poythress and Goodwin all started for the Wildcats with Julius Mays, a senior, being the only upperclassman among the starting five.
Duke built a 12-point lead with 6:25 left in the game, but then went scoreless for more than four minutes and Kentucky pulled within 64-61 with 3:28 left on Goodwin's drive to the basket. But missed opportunities -- a failed dunk attempt by Poythress and 3-pointer by Mays that would have tied the game --- cost them.
Duke seemed to suffer a setback when Plumlee was whistled for his fourth foul, bumping Nerlens Noel far from the basket, with 16:05 left in the game. Plumlee went to the bench with Duke leading by 43-37.
However, with Plumlee, the team's second-leading scorer from last season, out, Duke expanded its lead, going on an 11-5 run. Following Josh Hairston's lay-up, Kentucky was forced to call timeout with 11:29 left in the game, as the Wildcats tried to stem Duke's momentum down 54-42 -- the largest lead of the game for either team.
When Plumlee returned with 10:05 remaining, Duke led by 11. He fouled out with 34.3 seconds to go.
In a see-saw first half, Duke led 33-31 at the break on the strength of 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from Plumlee. Curry added nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, including two 3-pointers.
Kentucky's scoring was more balanced at halftime, as Goodwin led the way with six, but both Noel and Poythress had five.
Kentucky's defense forced Duke to shoot 41.7 percent in the first half but the Blue Devils' four 3-pointers gave them the edge. The Wildcats shot 9-of-18 in the half but committed nine turnovers to Duke's 7. Duke also had nine assists, with four from Sulaimon.
Duke trailed early, but on the strength of one of those 3-pointers from Curry and two three-point plays by Plumlee, the Blue Devils went on an 12-4 run to take a 29-23 lead with 5:10 left before the half. Quinn Cook set up Plumlee's second three-point play by driving to the basket, then passing to Plumlee behind him.
Kentucky led early, as Julius Mays' 3-pointer put the Wildcats on top 19-14 midway through the half.
NOTES: Kentucky leads the series between the schools, 11-8. Kentucky's most recent win over Duke came in the 1998 NCAA tournament, an 86-84 win in the regional semifinal round. ... Kentucky is 19-1 in November under coach John Calipari. ... Plumlee recorded his 19th career double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds in his team's 74-55 season-opening win over Georgia State last Friday.