ATLANTA -- For the Kentucky Wildcats, these are the necessary growing pains.
Clearly, they have as much talent as anyone in the country -- who couldn't think that after watching Alex Poythress put on a dunk-a-thon against Duke -- but they're still learning just what it takes to win at this level.
The Blue Devils provided the schooling Tuesday night.
Senior guard Seth Curry scored 23 points and No. 9 Duke held off a furious comeback by the third-ranked Wildcats, preserving a 75-68 victory at the Georgia Dome.
Both teams hope to return to Atlanta in April, when the Final Four will be held in the same building.
"I wouldn't mind having some of their guys," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And I'm sure they would like to have some of our guys."
The Blue Devils relied heavily on their experience to hold off coach John Calipari's latest group of stellar freshmen, who nearly came all the way back from a 14-point deficit in the second half.
Even so, Calipari actually sounded happier about the way his kids played in a loss than he did after their season-opening win over Maryland.
"We're getting better," he said. "This team just had some seniors. But we had a chance."
Calipari scanned the scoresheet and was pleased with the way the shots were spread around. Among the starters, everyone had between five and 12 attempts.
"That's pretty good. They're sharing," he said. "What they don't understand is how hard they have to play every possession, how a minute and a half can cost you a game. They don't know it yet. It's never been important to them. Our job is to teach them. We've got to get them in stronger shape mentally and physically."
Duke (2-0) appeared to be in control, even with Mason Plumlee on the bench in foul trouble. The Blue Devils ripped off a 13-3 run, capped by Rasheed Sulaimon's 3-pointer that made it 58-44 with 9 1/2 minutes remaining.
But Kentucky (1-1) wasn't done, rallying like a defending champ even though this is essentially a whole new team in Calipari's one-and-done system. The Wildcats outscored Duke 17-6 over the next six minutes and actually had a chance to tie it.
Julius Mays missed a 3-pointer with the Blue Devils clinging to a 64-61 lead.
Curry made sure youthful Kentucky didn't get any closer. He blew past Archie Goodwin on a drive -- using a pump fake to get by the freshman guard -- that essentially clinched the win.
This was the first meeting between the storied programs since 2001. In the stands, Christian Laettner cheered on his alma mater, a reminder of perhaps the most famous game in the series -- the 1992 NCAA regional final, in which Duke's Grant Hill heaved a long pass to Laettner, who turned and sank a buzzer-beating jumper that sent the Blue Devils on to their second straight national title.
There were no such heroics in this one.
Poythress led Kentucky with 20 points, soaring over the Blue Devils for several dunks, including a thunderous one-handed slam off a missed jumper by Mays. Nerlens Noel and Goodwin added 16 points apiece. All are freshmen, with plenty of room to grow before tournament time.
This was a good starting point, getting a chance to play in a doubleheader featuring four of the nation's best teams. In the opener, No. 21 Michigan State knocked off No. 7 Kansas 67-64.
"I think we learned a lot about ourselves," Noel said. "When you go up against a team like Duke, you've got to bring it every possession. Tonight was a learning process."
Calipari wasn't happy with his team's effort against Maryland -- especially on the boards. They were outrebounded 54-38 by the Terrapins, including 28 at the offensive end.
That was simply unacceptable given Kentucky's vaunted frontcourt featuring the 6-foot-10 Noel and 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein.
Rebounding wasn't as much of an issue this time -- Duke finished with a 31-30 edge -- but the experienced Blue Devils showed a bit more poise down the stretch.
"Nerlens played way more aggressive than he did against Maryland," Calipari said. "When we got it to three I said, 'We're going to win this.' They just made their free throws."
After Duke let Kentucky back in the game by continuing to put up errant jumpers, Curry finally changed things up. He gave a slight fake and took off for the hoop with just over 2 minutes remaining, forcing Goodwin to grab him by the arm. The senior knocked down both ends of the one-and-one, pushing Duke to a 66-61 lead with 2:04 remaining.
Poythress gave the Wildcats a semblance of hope, putting back a missed shot, but Curry blew by Goodwin again for a layin that made it 68-63 with 1:13 left and essentially sealed it. Calipari called a timeout and screamed at Goodwin as the freshman walked toward the bench.
In the final minute, Curry added two more free throws to finish off the Wildcats.
"I had it going," he said, "so they kept coming to me."
Kentucky still must address the same point guard questions it had before the opener. Sophomore transfer Ryan Harrow has been suffering from flu-like symptoms and didn't even make the trip to Atlanta, ruining a chance to impress the home folks. He played his high school ball in suburban Marietta.
Mays, a graduate student, started in place of Harrow but had only seven points and three assists.
Calipari said he shouldn't have played Harrow against Maryland. As it was, the guard was only able to go 10 minutes. Now, while the team awaits the results of blood tests, the coach vowed not to play him again until he's fully recovered.
"He said he could go, but he wasn't ready," Calipari said. "We need to get him healthy."
In the meantime, he hopes the loss will benefit the Wildcats down the road.
"If this is what we look like in December and January, this is not going to be the team everybody thinks," Calipari said. "We have to figure out exactly how we're going to play -- then get after it."
NO. 5 MICHIGAN 77, CLEVELAND STATE 47
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Tim Hardaway Jr. had 17 points and six rebounds, and Michigan advanced to the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off with a victory over Cleveland State.
It was the third straight victory by at least 30 points for the Wolverines (3-0), who shot 51 percent against a Cleveland State (2-1) team coming off an overtime win the day before.
Nik Stauskas scored 15 points, and Trey Burke added 12 points and seven assists for Michigan, which broke off a 29-5 run to finish the first half for a 42-14 lead at the break.
Anton Grady led the Vikings with 15 points.
Michigan was 25 of 40 from 3-point range in its first two games but only 9 of 24 Tuesday.
NO. 21 MICHIGAN ST. 67, NO. 7 KANSAS 64
ATLANTA -- Keith Appling scored 19 points, including a brilliant drive with 13.5 seconds left, and Michigan State rebounded from a season-opening loss with an upset of Kansas.
The Jayhawks (1-1) led 59-54 with 5 minutes remaining, but Michigan State (1-1) rallied.
Freshman Gary Harris scored 18 points, including back-to-back baskets that sparked an 8-0 run. Down the stretch, it was all Appling.
Elijah Johnson led Kansas with 16 points.
Kansas center Jeff Withey, who played so well in last season's NCAA tournament, wasn't much of a factor. He was held to eight points and seven rebounds, along with four turnovers.
NO. 13 UCLA 80, UC IRVINE 79, OT
LOS ANGELES -- Jordan Adams scored 26 points, making all 16 of his free throws, and UCLA edged UC Irvine in regional play of the Legends Classic.
Will Davis II missed two free throws with 2 seconds left in regulation that would have sealed the upset for the Anteaters (1-1), who fell to 10-35 all-time against Pac-12 teams.
Daman Starring tied it on a 3-pointer and Michael Wilder's 3 gave the Anteaters a 79-78 lead with 22 seconds to go in the extra session. But Larry Drew II's layup with 17 seconds kept the Bruins (2-0) perfect at new Pauley Pavilion.
David Wear added 13 points and nine rebounds, and his twin brother Travis had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Bruins.
NO. 14 MISSOURI 91, ALCORN 54
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Phil Pressey scored 21 points and Laurence Bowers added 14 -- all in the second half -- to help Missouri rout Alcorn State.
After a rough first half, the Tigers (2-0) pulled away from the Braves. Missouri made just nine of its 39 attempts before the break and held a seven-point halftime advantage thanks to Pressey's deep 3-pointer with three seconds left.
Bowers hit three 3-pointers in the second half to help Missouri take command. The Tigers used an 18-3 run after the half to blow the game open.
LeAntwan Luckett scored 14 points and Anthony Nieves added 13 for Alcorn State (1-1).
NO. 23 CONNECTICUT 67, VERMONT 49
STORRS, Conn. -- Shabazz Napier scored 13 points and freshman Omar Calhoun added 12 to lead Connecticut over Vermont.
Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans added 11 points and Tyler Olander had nine points and nine rebounds for UConn (2-0), which was playing its home opener after returning from Germany and an upset win over Michigan State last Friday in the Armed Forces Classic.
Luke Apfeld led Vermont (1-1) with nine points.
UConn's smothering defense made the difference in this one. The Huskies held Vermont to 30 percent shooting and just 15 baskets after limiting the Spartans to 37.5 percent on Friday.
NO. 24 CINCINNATI 102, MVSU 60
CINCINNATI -- Sean Kilpatrick scored 20 points and Cheikh Mbodj had four of Cincinnati's seven blocks to help lead the Bearcats over Mississippi Valley State.
The Bearcats (2-0) took control with a 23-4 run in the first half that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Cashmere Wright. The point guard had all of his 11 points in the take-control half.
JaQuon Parker added 13 points for the Bearcats, who shot 53.7 percent and dominated the boards 51-25. Cincinnati had its highest point total since a 105-69 win over North Carolina A&T on Dec. 30, 2005, under interim coach Andy Kennedy.
Davon Usher and Darryl Marshall scored 13 points apiece for MVSU (0-2).
NO. 25 SAN DIEGO ST. 91, SAN DIEGO CHRISTIAN 57
SAN DIEGO -- Jamaal Franklin had 28 points and 12 rebounds as San Diego State bounced back from a loss to Syracuse with a win over San Diego Christian of the NAIA.
The game had been scheduled for Sunday night, but was pushed back when SDSU's season-opening game against Syracuse on the USS Midway aircraft carrier was postponed from Friday night to Sunday afternoon because of the threat of rain. Syracuse won 62-49.
Chase Tapley scored 18 for SDSU (1-1).
Kevin Dawson scored 15 points and Kwaminique Brandon had 14 for San Diego Christian, which is located in suburban El Cajon.
TEMPLE 80, KENT ST. 66
KENT, Ohio -- Scootie Randall scored a career-high 31 points to lead Temple to an 80-66 win over Kent State in the Tip-Off Marathon.
Randall, who sat out last season with a left knee injury, finished 10-for-19 from the field, including five 3-pointers. His free throws gave Temple a 73-56 lead after a technical on the Kent State bench with 5:41 left.
Anthony Lee added 16 points for Temple (1-0), which shot 52 percent from the field.
Kris Brewer had 19 points and Chris Evans added 17 points for Kent State (1-1).
Temple led 40-32 at halftime.
VALPARAISO 69, N. ILLINOIS 46
VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Ryan Broekhoff scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to help Valparaiso cruise to a 69-46 win over Northern Illinois.
The Crusaders (2-0) led by nine at halftime but blew the game open by hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the first 2:24 of the second half and leading by 25 as they pulled away. Two of the 3s came from Ben Boggs, who finished with 11 points.
Northern Illinois (0-2) was led by Aksel Bolin with 10 points and Daveon Balls, who had nine, but the Huskies shot only 29 percent (19 of 65) for the game -- including just 4 of 18 from 3-point range.
IUPUI 80, BOWLING GREEN 66
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Mitchell Patton had 27 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday, and IUPUI beat Bowling Green 80-66 in an NIT Season Tip-Off consolation game.
Greg Rice scored 21 points for the Jaguars (2-1), and Donovan Gibbs added 10 points and 13 rebounds. Jordan Shanklin added 12 points for IUPUI, which shot 60 percent from the field. Shanklin made all three of his 3-point tries, and Patton was 10 of 15 from outside. Rice made six of his seven shots including both 3-point attempts.
The Jaguars trailed 37-30 late in the first half, but scored the final six points before the break and shot 71 percent after halftime.
Jordon Crawford led the Falcons (1-2) with 24 points. A'uston Calhoun scored 19 for BGSU.
IUPUI lost to No. 5 Michigan 91-54 on Monday night. Bowling Green lost in overtime to Cleveland State, 79-73.
W. MICHIGAN 86, MARYGROVE 40
KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Brandon Pokley scored 16 points and Western Michigan breezed to an 85-40 victory over Marygrove in the Broncos' home opener.
Four players were in double figures for Western Michigan (1-1). Nate Hutcheson scored 14 points, Darius Paul scored 11 and Shayne Whittington had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Twelve of the 14 Broncos who played in the game scored as WMU bounced back from a loss at Cornell on Saturday.
Pokley was 4 for 8 from 3-point range and the Broncos dominated the NAIA school on the inside as well with a 40-4 scoring edge in the paint. Marygrove led in the game's first minute, but not after that and the final margin of 45 was the biggest of the game.
Marygrove (0-3) was led by Darryl Foster, who scored 10 points.
MIAMI (OH) 80, GRAMBLING ST. 54
OXFORD, Ohio -- Reggie Johnson scored 20 points off the bench and Miami used a huge second-half surge to defeat Grambling State 80-54 and give new coach John Cooper his first victory with the Redhawks.
Trailing by seven early in the second half of a back-and-forth game, Miami (1-1) went on a 29-3 run highlighted by four 3-pointers.
The Tigers (0-3) cut the deficit to 13 on a Peter Roberson jumper with 7:48 left, but the RedHawks used a 12-2 run to pull away.
In the first half, Grambling State led 19-13 before the RedHawks scored 14 unanswered points.
Terry Rose, who led the Tigers with 20 points, scored the first 11 points of the second half. He knocked down three 3-pointers and hit two free throws to give the Grambling State a 34-27 lead.
Miami's Will Felder, Jon Harris and Allen Roberts had 12 points apiece and Bill Edwards 11.
XAVIER 62, BUTLER 47
CINCINNATI -- Jeff Robinson scored 17 points, and Travis Taylor added 15 points and nine rebounds to help Xavier beat cold-shooting Butler 62-47.
Justin Martin added 10 points for Xavier (2-0), and Dee Davis led a defensive effort that limited Butler (1-1) to 36.5 shooting percentage (19 of 52), including 25 percent (7 of 28) in the second half.
Davis scored nine points while helping hold Butler guard Rotnei Clarke to seven points after he scored 21 in Butler's season-opening 74-59 victory over Elon on Saturday.
Xavier shot 50 percent (23 of 46), never trailed and led by 20 points late in the game.
Freshman Kellen Dunham led Butler with 11 points.
WRIGHT ST. 56, E. ILLINOIS 44
CHARLESTON, Ill. -- JT Yoho scored 14 points and Kendall Griffin added 11 to lead Wright State to a 56-44 victory against Eastern Illinois.
Reggie Arceneaux had 10 points, and Yoho and Matt Vest grabbed eight rebounds each for the Raiders (2-0).
Alex Austin scored 11 points and Sherman Blanford 10 for the Panthers (0-2), who could not overcome a cold-shooting first half.
Wright State led 32-17 at halftime after Eastern Illinois shot just 25 percent (6 of 24) from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Yoho -- who was 3 for 4 from behind the arc -- stretched the Raiders' lead to 47-27 with 8:18 remaining.
Wright State outrebounded the Panthers 37-24.
IPFW 75, ROCHESTER 56
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Frank Gaines scored 24 points and Mario Hines added 17 to lead IPFW to a 73-56 victory against Rochester (Mich.) College in an Eastern Michigan University "Ice Man" Classic game.
Luis Jacobo had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Mastodons (1-1).
Dramell Hogan had 18 points and Drew Maynard 16 for the Warriors (7-2), an NAIA school. Both players grabbed eight rebounds.
IPFW, which led 42-26 at the break, shot 47.1 percent (24 of 51) from the floor and enjoyed a 44-25 rebounding edge.
BOISE ST. 88, OAKLAND 80
BOISE, Idaho -- Anthony Drmic had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Derrick Marks scored 18 points as Boise State defeated Oakland 88-80.
Jeff Elorriaga scored a career-best 17 points and Igor Hadziomerovic added 15 for the Broncos (2-0), who thwarted a second-half charge by the Golden Grizzlies.
Duke Mondy scored 21 points and Corey Petros had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Oakland (1-2).
Elorriaga hit three 3-pointers over the first six-plus minutes of the second half as Boise State used a 19-4 surge to open a 59-44 lead.
The Broncos still led by 14 with 9 1/2 minutes to play before the Golden Grizzlies rolled off nine consecutive points to pull within 69-64 on a 3-pointer by Mondy with 7:51 remaining.
But Marks drove for two baskets as Boise State answered with six consecutive points to push the lead back to 11.