In a battle of late, big shots, Kansas came out on top.
Jayhawks’ Frank Mason III sunk the one with 3 seconds left to win the Champions Classic, 77-75, over Duke Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Duke guards Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson hit shots of their own late, Allen’s to keep the deficit manageable and Jackson’s to tie it up with 16 seconds left.
But Duke had to do too much to overcome the hole Kansas had put it in.
Two big shots from the Duke’s guards late weren’t enough. Jackson, a freshman, converted a three-point play to bring Duke within 70-66 after a 12-point hole.
What started off so smooth sputtered at the wrong time for Duke.
The top-ranked Blue Devils (2-1) used six men through the first 19 minutes for a halftime lead against No. 7 Kansas (1-1), but things changed after the break.
Fouls began mounting.
Duke got smaller.
And the combination didn’t add up in its loss.
“For us,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “we don’t have the numbers when we get in foul trouble.”
All but one of Duke’s starters had at least three fouls, and forward Amile Jefferson, whose early foul trouble in the second half left sophomore Chase Jeter the lone big man on the floor.
What started as an early physical game didn’t work in Duke’s favor when Jefferson had to come out with four fouls early after halftime. He was replaced by Jackson, who at times played polished on both ends in the first half as the sixth man.
Duke sophomore Luke Kennard led the game with 22 points and dished a team-best five assists.
A revived Kansas team rose in the second half, a charge led by star freshmen Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike and veterans Frank Mason III and Raleigh’s Devonte’ Graham. It was what Duke was supposed to be with the best recruiting class in the nation, but half of it is hurt and Jackson was the only one to see substantial minutes in the first real test of the season.
Duke (2-1) had a 34-29 halftime lead despite the Jayhawks earning 12 second-chance scoring points to the Blue Devils’ none.
Mason drove as he pleased, his three-point play at 16:10 forcing a timeout and giving Kansas (1-1) aa 40-37 lead that grew by the minute.
Jeter had missed a dunk and two free throws, while Jackson, who fouled out with 5:08, didn’t miss a beat. He added a second-half three to collect 15 points before checking out, and Azubuike scored six big points to give Kansas a boost, commanding the low post.
Kansas led by as many as 12 in the second half, grabbing a 62-50 lead when Mason scored off his steal.
Duke’s rally was the polar opposite of how it started the second.
“I think we’re a good team, otherwise, we woulda got blown out of here tonight, but we’re a limited team,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ll see what happens when we get our guys back. We didn’t lose because we’re shorthanded, we lost because Kansas played better than we did.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @Jessikamorgan