The first game of the 2022-23 college basketball season between the top 10 teams was played in captivating fashion Tuesday night as No. 6 Kansas outlasted No. 7 Duke 69-64 during the Tournament of Champions Classic in Indianapolis. The Jayhawks were without their head coach, Bill Self, who was serving the third game of a self-imposed four-game suspension in response to alleged NCAA violations.
But even without Self and some of the key players from last season’s national title team, Jihawk looked like a national contender again. Kansas freshman Grady Dick came alive in crunch time for three clutch buckets in the last two-and-a-half minutes, two of which gave the Jayhawks the lead.
His dunks, looped passes with 1:04 remaining put him up 65-62 for the Jayhawks, who rallied from a six-point deficit late in the second half. Dick was intact in the half until his late end but finished with 14 points.
For most of the second half, the Jayhawks have been feeding hard on rookie winger Jalen Wilson, who is the leading returning scorer after losing stars like Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun in the NBA Draft. Wilson finished scoring a game-high 25 points and helped the Jayhawks weather a storm in the second half.
Duke trailed by 11 points early on but settled into the game as the game progressed with freshman forward Kyle Filipowski in the second half. Filipowski led the Blue Devils with 17 points and 14 rebounds but was only 6 of 18 from the floor. Jeremy Roach added 16 points for Duke.
Both teams have poor shooting
Duke hit a respectable 34% on his 3-point attempts with two games going into Tuesday, but the Blue Devils came out of the bracket against Kansas. Jeremy Roach and Therese Proctor were 1-for-5 from deep, Filipowski was 1-of-6 while Jaylen Blakes and Jacob Grandison combined to go 0-of-5.
Kansas didn’t fare much better as the Jayhawks only hit 3 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, but KU had more success attacking the edge. Overall, Kansas shot 46.3% from the floor compared to Duke’s 35.8%. Big Little Man KJ Adams Jr. Quietly with 4 attempts out of 4 from the field without being the focal point of KU’s offense. His stint against Duke’s much taller seniors was unenviable, but he handled it well enough to allow the Jayhawks to take advantage in other ways.
Kansas flexes its wings
How KU acquired capital was through the aggression of the versatile Wings Corps. Wilson entered the corridor against anyone guarding him and Dick managed to slip away at the crucial moments. Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar also provided a big boost in the first half, especially early when he often found himself guarded by Filipowski, who is 7-foot-tall. McColar scored eight of his 12 points in the first half. He had an early six as the Jayhawks opened up a 17-6 lead in less than seven minutes.
The size and versatility of Dick McCullar’s Wilson trio stood out at Kansas. Although only three games into his career, Dick looks capable of playing a similar kind of role that Christian Brown played with the Jayhawks on their way to winning the national title last season. Although replacing Ochai Agbaji would be a bit more difficult, KU clearly has the necessary peripheral weapons to be a nightmare of a match again.
Key players are missing in action
Neither team had its full roster available. One of Duke’s five-star starters, versatile winger Dariq Whitehead, has yet to make his debut while recovering from off-season foot surgery. The 6-6 wing would have given Duke another versatile defender to post against Wilson and Dick.
But Kansas was also without players. Freshman guard MJ Rice (illness) and sophomore Zach Clemens (injury) were unavailable. Rice is a McDonald’s All-American who took a major role off the bench last week, and Clemens is a sophomore battling for minutes on the front court.
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