Kansas men’s basketball’s Champion’s Classic matchup against No. 4 Duke was close throughout, but the Blue Devils ended up besting the Jayhawks 68-66.
The game started off as a back-and-forth affair. Sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji got the Jayhawks going as he scored the contest’s first points on a thunderous slam set up by a pass from senior center Udoka Azubuike off a set play.
After the first five minutes, Duke led 10-9 thanks to a couple of threes from the Blue Devils' freshman duo forward Matthew Hurt and center Vernon Carey Jr.
One area that haunted the Jayhawks last season was their lack of three-point shooting. Agbaji hit Kansas’ first three-pointer of the game at the 11:58 mark of the first half. Soon after, freshman forward Tristan Enaruna hit one of his own to take the 18-15 lead.
Duke did a good job applying pressure and forcing Kansas into bad situations. The Jayhawks committed an abysmal 18 turnovers in the first half. Largely due to Kansas’ mistakes, Duke found itself up 33-30 at the end of the first half, despite being outshot 37.1% compared to the Jayhawks’ 47.6%.
The second half got off to a quick start as sophomore forward David McCormack scored on a layup from under the basket for Kansas. However, Duke was quick to answer with another Hurt three-pointer.
A couple minutes later, Azubuike hit Agbaji on a backdoor cut en route to another tomahawk dunk. This sequence sparked a 9-0 Kansas run that forced Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to call a timeout.
Following the timeout, the bleeding continued as the run extended to 13-0. But, the offensive explosion was eventually quieted by another three from Carey that cut the Kansas lead down to 46-40.
Duke went on a run of its own following that play. The Blue Devils were able to force Kansas to commit back-to-back turnovers that led to two transition dunks by Duke freshman guard Cassius Stanley. This series tied the game 47-47 at the 11:37 mark of the second half.
Azubuike, despite a quiet night, came up with a key play. With many Blue Devils swarming him, the Delta, Nigeria native bullied his way into the paint before throwing down a two-handed and-1 flush and made the free throw that gave the Jayhawks the lead.
With only 26 seconds left in game, staring at a 66-63 deficit, McCormack missed a put-back, and sophomore guard Tre Jones rebounded the ball for Duke, essentially ending the game.
Kansas finished the game with 28 turnovers, which ended up being the difference in the game.
Sophomore guard Devon Dotson led the game in scoring with 17 points, two rebounds and two assists, but it wasn't enough to carry Kansas to victory.
The Jayhawks will look to bounce back as they take on the UNC Greensboro Spartans in their first season game inside Allen Fieldhouse Friday night. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.