NEW YORK, NY — Kentucky came up short in its opener in the Champions Classic as Duke handed the Wildcats a 79-71 loss in Madison Square Garden.
Kentucky started strong with Sahvir Wheeler scoring and dishing assists while Oscar Tshiebwe was pulling down the rebounds. UK had trouble trying to get a lead in the first half. Only tying it at 6-6, 13-13 and 15-15. However, Kentucky continued to keep it close as Kellan Grady hit three 3 pointers. Kentucky trailed by just four 39-35 at the break.
The Wildcats looked their best at the start of the second half as Tshiebwe got a dunk an lay-in followed up by a Keion Brooks, Jr. three pointer to give UK its first lead at 42-41.
But it was short-lived with UK's final lead coming early in the second half at 48-47 after Brooks made a follow up bucket. After that, Duke went on an 8-0 run to claim a 55-48 lead over the Wildcats. Another 5-0 lead would give Duke a double digit lead as they took control of the game.
Kentucky was led by Tshiebwe who had 17 points and 19 rebounds. Wheeler had 17 and 10 assists. Brooks, Grady and Washington added 9 each.
The Wildcats fall to 5-6 in the Champions Classic with the loss. Of course, 0-1 for the season.
Kentucky has its home opener on Friday when the Wildcats host Robert Morris, who's first game is Wednesday.