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Duke pushes past Kentucky for big win to kick off Mike Krzyzewski's final season

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Coach K’s send-off tour got off to the perfect start on Tuesday night.

Mike Krzyzewski and No. 9 Duke mounted a big second-half run to power past No. 10 Kentucky on Tuesday night 79-71 at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic — which officially kicked off the 2021-22 men's college basketball season.

The night marked the first of many sure to be highlighted by Krzyzewski, who will retire at the end of the season after more than four decades leading the Blue Devils.

Duke and Kentucky were locked in a close battle through the first 20 minutes on Tuesday night, and the Wildcats jumped to a slight lead just minutes into the second half after trailing by four at the break.

That, though, is when Duke turned it on. The Blue Devils mounted a huge 18-4 run over a nearly eight-minute span to break open a 15-point lead.

Though Kentucky cut it to single digits and momentarily posed a minor threat, it was too late. Duke held on to take the eight-point win in Krzyzewski’s 1,400th game leading the Blue Devils.

Oscar Tshiebwe led Kentucky with 17 points and 19 rebounds, and Sahvir Wheeler added 16 points with 10 assists. They were the only two Wildcats to score in double figures.

Freshman Trevor Keels led Duke with 25 points, while shooting 10-of-18 from the field, and Paolo Banchero added 22 points with seven rebounds, while shooting 7-of-11 from the field. As a team, Duke shot nearly 51% from the field, but made just one 3-pointer in 13 attempts.

“It’s great, this is a magical place, and we had so many Duke fans here,” Krzyzewski said on ESPN after the game. “I’ve been so lucky to be in these types of moments with really good players, and they make me look pretty good.”

Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski kicked off his 42nd and final season with the Blue Devils on Tuesday night. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today)

Kansas, Ochai Agbaji roll by Michigan State

It took a second-half surge, and a huge night from Ochai Agbaji, but No. 3 Kansas left Madison Square Garden with a huge win to start the season on Tuesday night.

The Jayhawks beat Michigan State 87-74 in the first game of the Champions Classic behind 29 points from Agbaji.

Kansas led by just seven at halftime, though Michigan State brought that back down to three points just minutes into the second half. That, though, was as close as it got. Kansas held the Spartans scoreless for nearly three minutes while quickly regaining a double-digit lead, which they rode through to the 13-point win.

Agbaji led Kansas with a career-high 29 points, while shooting 9-of-17 from the field. Remy Martin added 15 points, and David McCormack finished with 10 points.

“He was terrific tonight. He’s had some big games in the past,” Kansas coach Bill Self said, via The Associated Press. “I don’t know if he’s had a bigger game on a bigger stage with the bright lights. He basically carried us. I was really happy for him and he was really good.”

Memphis Emoni Bates looks to pass as Tennessee Tech's Dane Quest
Memphis' Emoni Bates looks to pass as Tennessee Tech's Dane Quest defends in the second half of their game on Tuesday. (AP/Karen Pulfer Focht)

Emoni Bates shines in Memphis debut

Emoni Bates didn’t waste any time getting his collegiate career going.

The 17-year-old shined on Tuesday night while leading No. 12 Memphis to a dominant 89-65 win over Tennessee Tech. He put up a team-high 17 points while shooting 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-7 from behind the arc.

Bates reclassified to join the Tigers early this season. The former Rivals.com five-star recruit landed in Memphis with offers from Duke, Michigan, Michigan State and Texas, among others.

Though they’re just one game in, Bates and fellow five-star recruit Jalen Duren are already off to a hot start in Memphis.

Wichita State’s wild game-winner

Tyson Etienne didn’t need to pull up from the logo in the final seconds on Tuesday night at Charles Koch Arena.

The game was tied, and he had plenty of time to make a move to the rim to get a better-looking shot.

The Shockers, however, certainly aren’t complaining.

Etienne drilled a wild contested game-winner from the logo to lift Wichita State to a 60-57 win over Jacksonville State.

Etienne finished the night with a team-high 16 points and four rebounds, while shooting 5-of-14 from the field. His game-winning 3-pointer was just the second one he made all night.

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