The Champions Classic saw Kansas Jayhawks and the Michigan State Spartans posting wins, both following double-digit comebacks.
No.7 Kansas (2-1) was better than No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats (1-2) 65-62, in one very messy contest. Both sides had a terrible night when in terms of shooting, and one player turned out to be a difference-maker – Jalen Wilson.
The redshirt freshman ended the night with 23 points while shooting 8-for-16 from the floor, adding 10 rebounds. After having just two points in the opening 20 minutes of the match, he dropped 21 in the latter part.
“My team needed me to step up even though I had a slow first half, and the second half turned out to be a really good half,” Wilson stated. “ I have confidence in me, my team has confidence in me and it felt really good.”
The 6-foot-8 forward from Denton, Texas, was constantly creating trouble for the Wildcats’ defense in the second half, not only scoring points but providing space to other teammates who would then have easier situations to execute.
Among them was Ochai Agbaji, who scored five of his 17 points in the crucial moments, breaking a 55-all tie, and giving the Jayhawks a two-possession lead over the rivals. Christian Brown did all the dirty work on the floor, scoring 8 points but having 13 rebounds, six in the offense, two steals, and two blocks, providing dominance under the rim.
On the other side, the Wildcats had a double-digit lead throughout most of the opening half, but they allowed Kansas to come down to just six points at halftime, 35-29. Kentucky wouldn’t score for almost seven and a half minutes early in the second, and during that time, the Jayhawks seized the momentum, turning the result upside down.
The game was tight afterward, but it was obvious that John Calipari’s guys aren’t capable of winning. They now play against Georgia Tech, while Jayhawks await Washburn.
No. 8 Michigan State also faced a double-digit deficit in its clash with No. Duke. Like ways Kansas, the Spartans ended the night on the winning side, routing the Blue Devils, 75-69.
Duke was much better in the opening phase of the event, generating a 13-3 lead, but starting to show signs of weakness as the halftime approached. Michigan State slowly chopped the rivals, until making a burst in the late first and early second half, once Spartans managed to get away to 51-36. There was no drama in the remaining part of the game, just a routine conclusion of the match.
Tom Izzo, who previously had 12 losses in 14 matches against Blue Devils, and Mike Krzyzewski, was more than happy following the event.
“I’m going to smile and enjoy it because I haven’t done a very good job against Duke,” Izzo said. “It’s been one-sided, so this is one step in the right direction.”
The best player in his team was Rocket Watts with 20 points and three boards. Aaron Henry followed him with 14 buckets and a very well all-around play. Spartans’ forward posted 5 boards and assists, plus three steals and blocks each. Joey Hauser recorded a double-double hitting 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Matthew Hurt was by far the most notable figure in Duke, providing a double-double for 36 minutes on the floor, 21 points, and 13 rebounds. Jalen Johnson and Jaemyn Brakefield bot scored 11 points.
Duke meets Bellarmine in the next game and Michigan State Detroit. Both games will host their rivals.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.