After some early back-and-forth, Kansas opened up a big first half lead and held off a late Spartan charge to defeat Michigan State by a 92-87 final.
With Kansas leading 18-16 at the under-12 TV timeout, the lead quickly ballooned to 13 a after a 12-1 Jayhawk run. KU held the Spartans at arm’s length for the rest of the first half, taking a 17-point lead with under 20 seconds to go before a last-second three by MSU’s Kyle Ahrens fell. The Jayhawks led 50-36 at the break.
A Quentin Grimes three-pointer right after the break extended the lead back to 17, but that’s as high as it would go for Kansas as Michigan State began to slowly chip away. The Jayhawks still led by 15 points at the under-12 timeout, and by 11 at the under-8 timeout. It was still a 10-point game with 3:30 to play and Kansas leading 89-79.
However, the Jayhawks would only score three more points the rest of the way as MSU kept getting chance after chance to draw closer. KU missed two three-pointers and only hit 2-6 free throws in the final 3:30, including three misses by Udoka Azubuike.
Once Cassius Winston missed a layup with nine seconds to play, a free throw by Quentin Grimes sealed the deal, and Kansas would leave the floor victorious in the highest-scoring game in the short history of the Champions Classic.
Kansas has now won three straight in the Champions Classic series, evening their record at 4-4 and evening the historical series with Michigan State at 7-7.
The Jayhawks had four players score in double figures: Quentin Grimes (21), Dedric Lawson (20), Udoka Azubuike (17), and Devon Dotson (16).
Grimes was 6-7 from behind the arc at one point in the game; he would finish 6-10.
Dedric Lawson also had 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals against just 2 turnovers.
As a team, KU shot 10-23 (43.4%) from behind the arc and 20-33 (60.6%) from the charity stripe.
The Jayhawks totaled just 11 turnovers, a marked improvement over exhibition play.
KU got 43% of its scoring from in the paint, and 32% of its scoring from behind the arc.
Even when building that big first-half lead, the Jayhawks didn’t look great on either side of the floor. The transition defense was not good, and a bad carryover from last year seems to be the issue of giving up wide open outside looks to the opponent.
Michigan State - like Kansas - missed a ton of free throws as well.
It really felt like Kansas coasted through most of this game, which is encouraging - imagine the beatdown they could put on teams with a good 30-minute or full 40-minute effort.
I liked the tweet from Jesse Newell midway through the first half that:
This is like a mixtape of Bill Self's biggest defensive pet peeves and KU is up 15 in the first half.— Jesse Newell (@jessenewell) November 7, 2018
Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday, Nov 12, to take on the Vermont Catamounts in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. The game is scheduled for an 8 PM tip on ESPN2.