Kentucky's Calipari backs off complaints after loss to Duke
ATLANTA -- With his team down by two points at halftime, Kentucky coach John Calipari engaged in a little gamesmanship Tuesday, telling an ESPN sideline reporter that opposing Duke players were flopping to draw charging fouls.
Calipari added that if the offending Blue Devils were in the NBA, they'd be getting fined under a new rule instituted by the professional league this season.
The ploy failed, as No. 9 Duke built up a 12-point second-half lead and rode the play of senior Seth Curry and his game-high 23 points to down the No. 3 Wildcats 75-68 in the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome.
"You know, I really don't pay attention," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said when asked if he were aware of Calipari's comments. "Not just to John but other coaches, so, really, I don't really care what anybody says."
When told the specifics of Calipari's claims, Krzyzewski defended his players.
"I mean, he has a right to say whatever he wants," Krzyzewski said. "I thought we took some amazing charges, and I thought we probably could've taken a couple more. There's a difference between a charge and a flop. A flop is when you don't take any contact. I would hope that anyone who watches the game would say our kids really played outstanding defense and were there to take charges. And we don't make any money, so we can't be fined."
When Calipari was asked after the game about what he said, he pretended that he hadn't been serious.
"It was a joke," he said. "Come on, you guys at Duke can take a joke, right? Jeesh."
What wasn't a joke was the play of Duke's three senior starters, especially Curry, who was recently nursing a leg injury.
"He's been hurt, so he hasn't practiced very much, but one thing he's added to his game is he's a scorer, he's not just a shooter," Krzyzewski said. "He's added some herky-jerky moves ... He's got a way of getting a guy to commit. Really, not many people can do that. He's put a lot of work in his game. He's primed for an amazing year, and he had an amazing night tonight."
Curry, who made seven of 14 shots, said his biggest issue was conditioning.
"I think I did a good job of trying to stay sharp with limited practice time," he said. "I haven't been around them as much as I usually have."
Senior Mason Plumlee scored 18 points for Duke, and senior Ryan Kelly added 10. Guard Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6-foot-4 freshman from Houston, made three second-half 3-pointers, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The freshman trio of Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin led Kentucky (1-1) with 20, 16 and 16 points, respectively.
Duke (2-0) built a 12-point lead with 6:25 left in the game but then went scoreless for more than four minutes. Kentucky pulled within 64-61 with 3:28 left on Goodwin's drive to the basket. Missed opportunities by the Wildcats -- a failed dunk attempt by Poythress and 3-pointer by Mays that would have tied the game -- proved costly.
Duke seemed to suffer a setback when Plumlee was whistled for his fourth foul, bumping Noel far from the basket, with 16:05 left in the game. Plumlee went to the bench with Duke leading by 43-37.
However, without Plumlee, the team's second-leading scorer from last season, Duke actually expanded its lead, going on an 11-5 run. Following Josh Hairston's layup, Kentucky was forced to call timeout with 11:29 left in the game, as the Wildcats tried to stem Duke's momentum while trailing 54-42 -- the largest lead of the game for either team.
When Plumlee returned with 10:05 left in the game, Duke led by 11. He fouled out with 34.3 seconds left.
"We had our chances," Calipari said. "That's what happens when you're a freshman team. We had about three spells of a minute and half and we do something dumb, and that's what a good team is going to do, they capitalize."
NOTES: Kentucky leads the series between the schools, 11-9. The Wildcats' most recent win over Duke came in the 1998 NCAA tournament, an 86-84 victory in the regional semifinal round. ... Kentucky is 19-1 in November under 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 on Friday.