No. 3 KU gets early chance for redemption against No. 1 Duke
NEW YORK — Kansas did not get off to a flying start in more than one sense.
By going to overtime in a season-opening loss to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic, the No. 3 Jayhawks were left scrambling to make a flight out of Hawaii.
They flew to New York both frazzled and disappointed while forced to get ready for another elite showdown Tuesday against top-ranked Duke in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.
"We need to get ready and think about Duke," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "but certainly you come all the way over here (to Honolulu), you play 45 minutes, you’ve got to win. I mean, that’s the bottom line and we just didn’t do it."
Instead, four starters fouled out and the Jayhawks fell 103-99 to the Hoosiers, despite forcing an overtime by overcoming a five-point deficit with slightly more than a minute remaining.
Senior guard Frank Mason posted a career-best 30 points while also leading Kansas with nine assists and seven rebounds.
"He missed a big one," Self said of a free throw by Mason with 40 seconds left in regulation, "but other than that, he was great. He had some mental lapses defensively, but Frank’s so tough."
Defensive breakdowns were most concerning for Self after his team allowed Indiana to drain 15 bombs from 3-point range. He also was not pleased with the Jayhawks’ shot selection.
"The reality of it is, there’s so many possessions that you’ve got to be able to guard your man and you’ve got to pay attention to the scouting report," Self said. "I didn’t think we were. We played like it was the first game."
That variable no longer exists, and the competition only stiffens after Kansas lost a season opener for the first time in Self’s 14 seasons as coach.
Duke played two home games last weekend as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. The Blue Devils (2-0) played without three injured freshman post players but had no trouble pounding Marist and Grand Canyon.
"I like my team a lot," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We just have to keep getting better, and then once these injuries are taken care of in some time, we can become a different team. Right now, we have to be this team and not think about who we could be. Our complete focus has got to be how to win this team."
That directive requires perimeter players to crash the boards. Junior guard Grayson Allen snagged 10 rebounds as part of a double-double that included 25 points against Grand Canyon. The Blue Devils trailed by six early, but five scorers netted double figures to lead the 96-61 blowout.
"We know the big guys that we do have in the game, they’re going to be battling, boxing out the other bigs, so the perimeter, we need to crash in and rebound and clean up all the loose stuff," Krzyzewski said.
None of the injured freshman big men — Harry Giles (knee), Marques Bolden (lower leg) and Jayson Tatum (foot) — are expected to play against Kansas.
The absence of Giles prevents a showdown between two of the nation’s most coveted recruits, though Jayhawks guard Josh Jackson struggled in his debut, scoring nine points on 3-of-11 shooting fromt he field against Indiana.
"Whatever amount of time, whatever it is, let’s just get well," Krzyzewski added. "And while you guys are getting well and supporting the team, let’s become a team with these nine (healthy) guys. We made that a priority this past week."
The lone Kansas victory in the Champions Classic since its inception in 2011 was a 94-83 victory against Duke in 2013. The Blue Devils leads the all-time series 7-3.
Tipoff for the Duke-Kansas clash will follow a matchup between Kentucky and Michigan State. The Spartans also opened their season on Nov. 11 in Honolulu, losing at the wire to Arizona.