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No. 2 Duke 71, No. 3 Kentucky 60

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — When March rolls around and the NCAA tournament is under way, the Duke-Kentucky game played three days before Christmas could be a big factor.

The second-ranked Blue Devils beat No. 3 Kentucky 71-60 Tuesday night in the featured game of the Jimmy V Classic.

It wasn't a win that will make a season, nor was it a loss that ruins one. It was just the programs of the '90s going at it in front of a sellout crowd at Continental Airlines Arena.

``This game will help us in our maturing process,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ``A hard-fought game in this atmosphere against a team like Kentucky can only help you because you know they're good and they're going to fight you the whole way.''

No matter what Kentucky did, Duke had an answer. Whether it was tough defense or big baskets, the Blue Devils made sure the nightmare of last March didn't happen again.

In the opening game of the doubleheader, No. 9 Purdue beat South Carolina 80-64.

Duke (11-1) scored the first 11 points of the second half to take a 50-34 lead with 15:53 to play. Last March, in the South Regional final, the Blue Devils had a 17-point lead with 9-1/2 minutes to play, but the Wildcats rallied to win 86-84 and went on to their second national championship in three years.

``We did remind them of last year with the 16-point lead because I knew they were reminding their team, saying we've been here before and let's get in transition and we're going to get 3s,'' Krzyzewski said. ``Also, you can talk about it, but there's an emotional and psychological barrier you have to get by and I didn't think we handled it well for those four minutes, then the last 10 or 11 minutes we fought hard.''

So hard that the Wildcats (10-2) never got closer than eight points.

``Every time we made a run they came back with a couple of big baskets,'' Kentucky guard Heshimu Evans said. ``Duke is a great team and you always want to test yourself against great teams. I think this was a good learning experience for us. ... They played hard and outhustled us. I can't explain why but I thought we played kind of timid.''

Duke won its sixth straight game by holding the Wildcats to 35 percent shooting (22-of-63) and not letting them start the transition game they are famous for, the one that leads to wide open 3-pointers and breakaway dunks.

``The way they score a lot of their points is in transition,'' said Duke guard Trajan Langdon, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. ``We knew that and just locked in on them and tried to keep them out of their game. We made good decisions, good passes. I think we wore them down a little.''

Kentucky, which had won six straight games overall and its last 11 against ranked teams, finished with a 45-36 rebound advantage, but there were few areas where the Wildcats outplayed Duke.

``They came out aggressive and beat us every way,'' said Scott Padgett, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Kentucky. ``That's all there was to it.''

Elton Brand had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Blue Devils, while Chris Carrawell had 10 points.

``What does this game say about us?'' Brand asked. ``It says we can play against one of the top teams in the country. A lot of people were saying this team didn't have heart. I think we showed what kind of heart we had. You can't say it's payback. This is two different teams. But it was a big game.''

Evans had 13 points and seven rebounds for Kentucky, while Michael Bradley had 12 points.

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