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KU versus Duke in Men's Basketball: the All-Time Series

Two great teams

The Kansas Jayhawks and Duke Blue Devils have basketball programs second to none. They are second and fourth in all-time victories with more than 4,000 wins between them. They are currently first and second in consecutive NCAA appearances. Duke has appeared in 126 NCAA Tournament games while Kansas has played in 129. They have combined for 29 Final Four appearances and seven NCAA championships.

In the illustrious history of KU and Duke Men’s Basketball that spans more than a century, these proud schools have played each other only nine times. I watched seven of their games on television and attended another game in Allen Field House. The other game I listened to on the radio. Their games are rarely lacking in importance, for five of their matchups have been in the NCAA Tournament—three times in the Final Four. They played once for a preseason NIT Championship and most recently for a Maui Invitational Championship; they scheduled one home-and-home series, more than 20 years ago. Eight games were decided by seven points or less, with only Duke’s 1989 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium in Roy Williams’ first year as the Jayhawks head coach a blowout.

Here are my memories of the nine games between these two storied teams. My recollections are from a KU fan’s perspective, but I have tremendous respect for the Duke program and their coach, Mike Krzyzewski. His success as Duke’s head coach is so remarkable he is often taken for granted.

KU has one of the most storied basketball traditions in the country

KU has one of the most storied basketball traditions in the country

Duke owns an impressive 6-2 record against the Jayhawks

Duke owns an impressive 6-2 record against the Jayhawks

Coach K has been the coach of Duke for each of their games against Kansas

Coach K has been the coach of Duke for each of their games against Kansas

Danny Manning had some memorable games against Duke

Danny Manning had some memorable games against Duke

Danny Ferry was a worthy opponent for Manning and Kansas--he played against KU five times

Danny Ferry was a worthy opponent for Manning and Kansas--he played against KU five times

Nick Collison exploded for 33 points and 19 rebounds in the 2003 NCAA Tournament

Nick Collison exploded for 33 points and 19 rebounds in the 2003 NCAA Tournament

The games

December 1, 1985 Preseason NIT Championship (Duke 92-86): I listened to this game on the radio, which is a particularly nerve-wracking way to follow basketball. Danny Manning led KU with 24 points and 8 rebounds, while Calvin Thompson and Ron Kellogg scored 22 and 20, respectively. Duke’s David Henderson led all scorers with 30 points, while Mark Alarie contributed 21 and Johnny Dawkins added 20. In a game virtually even in every statistical category, Duke won the game at the free throw line by shooting 22-25 from the charity stripe. KU only got to the line nine times, hitting six.

March 29, 1986 NCAA Final Four (Duke 71-67): KU ended the 1985-86 season with a 35-4 record; two of those losses were at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils. KU and Duke met for the second time this season in Dallas at the Final Four. It was a classic game that could not disappoint any true basketball fan. KU big men Danny Manning and Greg Dreiling were plagued with foul trouble despite KU playing zone defense for much of the game. Ron Kellogg scored 22 points off 11-15 shooting while Calvin Thompson and Archie Marshall added 13 apiece. Johnny Dawkins led Duke with 24 points. Duke won again from the free throw line, shooting 21-30 while KU shot 9-12.

February 20, 1988 at Kansas (Duke 74-70 OT): KU bolted to an early 23-8 lead, but the sixth-ranked Blue Devils battled back and trailed by only a point at halftime. The two teams battled back and forth in the second half, and overtime was needed to declare a winner. KU held a six point lead with three minutes to play but couldn’t hold on for the win. Danny Manning played a superb game with 31 points and 12 rebounds, but Duke’s Quin Snyder and Danny Ferry countered with 21 and 20 points. Duke again shot ten more free throws than Kansas, making seven of them.

April 2, 1988 NCAA Final Four (Kansas 66-59): Duke and Kansas clashed twice in a season for the second time in three years, and once again the second game was played in the Final Four. Kansas again jumped out to an early lead, scoring the game’s first fourteen points and leading 24-6 before the Blue Devils once again battled back. Duke cut the lead to three in the second half, but this time KU held on for the victory. Danny Manning was dominant with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 6 blocks. Danny Ferry countered with 19 points and 12 rebounds

February 18, 1989 at Duke (Duke 102-77): The only blowout in the history of the series occurred when the Jayhawks traveled to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play Duke in Roy Williams’ first year as the coach of Kansas. Duke raced to an 11-2 start and led by 19 at halftime. The game was never in doubt as five Blue Devils scored in double figures, led by Danny Ferry with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Duke shot 65 percent from the field for the game and never let KU get closer than 17 points in the second half.

April 1, 1991 NCAA Championship (Duke 72-65): Neither team was expected to be in the NCAA Championship game in 1991. Duke had to get by the powerful UNLV Runnin’ Rebels while Kansas beat Indiana, Arkansas and North Carolina to advance. It was an ugly game, but memorable for Bobby Hurley’s half-court alley-oop pass to Grant Hill for a dunk. Duke’s Christian Laettner and Kansas’ Mark Randall battled to a draw with 18 points and 10 rebounds each, but Duke had the better team and KU could never get Duke’s lead under seven points down the stretch.

March 19, 2000 NCAA Second-Round Game (Duke 69-64): #1 Duke ended Kansas’ season for the third time with a hard-fought win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Both teams shot less than 40% from the field in this defensive struggle, and Duke won despite going 2-17 from beyond the three-point line. Shane Battier scored 21 points with 8 rebounds while Carlos Boozer added 15 points with 13 rebounds. Nine players scored for Kansas, but freshman Kirk Hinrich was the lone Jayhawk in double figures with 12 points.

March 27, 2003 NCAA Third-Round Game (Kansas 69-65): KU won this meeting between the two storied schools in an NCAA Sweet Sixteen matchup. The score was tied 35-35 at halftime, and there were five ties and five lead changes in the second half. KU shot only 1-12 from the three point line, but Nick Collison dominated the paint with 33 points, 19 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks. Dahntay Jones led the Blue Devils with 23 points and 7 rebounds.

November 23, 2011 Maui Invitational Championship Game (Duke 68-61): KU and Duke battled once again from start to finish, with KU leading 35-31 at halftime but failing to hold on. Thomas Robinson had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks, while Jeff Withey contributed 14 and 10. Tyshawn Taylor led the Jayhawks with 17 points, but also had 11 turnovers. Tyler Thornton saved Duke with a deep three-pointer over multiple defenders to give the Blue Devils a two point lead. His second three-pointer finished the Jayhawks. Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee led Duke with 17 points each, and Plumlee contributed 12 rebounds, as well.

The future?

Barring another NCAA Tournament matchup (a distinct possibility), Duke and Kansas will play next on November 12, 2013 in the ESPN Champion’s Classic. Given the history and tradition of these two schools, we can guess that both teams will be highly ranked and feature a number of great players. The score will probably remain close throughout, and the winner will be…..?

This article is in response to the question, “What is KU’s all-time record vs. Duke in basketball?”


Which team is better?

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Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 10, 2012:

Kufan, thanks for reading. I also wish the great teams would be willing to play each other more often. Matchups like this are what the game is all about. I agree that Bill Self has made KU great in his time at Kansas, and his won-loss record certainly suggests no one has had better teams, especially in the last five years. Kansas has always been a top team, and the games between KU and Duke have always been tense and exciting.

I need to edit this article and include the most recent game, played last November.

Thanks for stopping by.


kufan on January 21, 2012:

good read. Two great programs, great coaches, great players. I wish they would play more. Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky. All should forget other postseason tournaments and play it out in their own. These programs are the fabric of basketball at any level. Duke is a more recent power, but Kansas has been better (and in my opinion its not even debatable) than anyone in Self's era at KU.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 18, 2011:

Wallsticker, thanks for reading. Both KU and Duke have fielded some great teams, including this year. They are two of the very best college basketball has to offer.


WallStickerDecals from US on January 18, 2011:

Great players indeed.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 05, 2011:

Mega, I agree with you. I wrote a hub about a year ago listing what I believed to be the five best college basketball programs of all time, and I had North Carolina first. I listed KU third and Duke fifth. My poll here was which team was best between the two. So far Duke is ahead, one vote to zero.

KU and Carolina have long been linked in their success. Current Coach Roy Williams coached at Kansas after completing a stint as Dean Smith's assistant at Carolina. Dean Smith was a KU alum and played on their 1952 championship team. Former KU coach Larry Brown was a Carolina grad. I am a huge Carolina fan--even if I still like KU better.

Thanks as always for your comments, I always enjoy seeing that you stopped by.


Thanks for your comments.

Megavitamin on January 04, 2011:

While I love ya Mike, I'm gonna have to disagree with you. Obviously, UNC has the best basketball program! That's another hub for another time, I guess :0)

I respect your devotion to KU and I appreciate all college basketball lovers. This is a great, well-researched hub. Thanks for sharing!

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 02, 2011:

Husky, thanks for reading. While writing this, I wondered if you managed to see any of these games. KU versus Duke is always a special game, and rarely will these two teams disappoint. Thanks for reading, and may both our teams enjoy continued success this season.


Husky1970 on January 02, 2011:

Mike, what a terrific and well researched hub. Interesting to hear your perspective. The fact that you attended one, watched 6, and listened to one of the 8 matchups is impressive. And I certainly agree with the radio comment, being someone who has vivid memories of listening to Johnny Most and Chrs Clark cover the Celtics and Providence College respectively in the 1960's.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 02, 2011:

Denizee, thanks for the comments and the kind words. The person who asked this question asked something I was indeed quite qualified to answer--I am a true fan and always will be. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I hope your New Year is off to a great start. Take care.


Denizee on January 01, 2011:

The person who asked you this question will def have their answer. Great write Mike - informative, well written and a great Hub. I hate to say I've swayed from sports since I packed my Pom-Poms from H.S. away - but you are a natural with great talent in writing.