For much of Tuesday’s game, the Kansas Jayhawks looked like they had the Michigan State Spartans at arm’s length. MSU fought back and took a 54-53 lead with 6:35 to go but Travis Releford went to the line and hit two free throws to put KU back up by one. They added four more points to take a 59-54 lead.
The Spartans battled back and regained the lead after an 8-0 run for a 62-59 lead with 2:07 to go.
After two free throws by Elijah Johnson, Keith Appling took the ball at the top of the key, pulled up while the Jayhawks were caught switching defenders and hit a three pointer to make it a two possession game that KU never came back from. They fought back – Ben McLemore drove into the lane and hit a traditional three point play to make it 65-64 and KU almost had a stop on the other end, but Appling drove past Jeff Withey and made a scooping layup as the shot clock wound down.
A final play by KU wasn’t executed well and Elijah Johnson picked up his dribble and didn’t have a shot. Releford took the last shot, but couldn’t make it and KU came away with a 67-64 loss and a learning experience.
For Michigan State, it was a strong win after an upset loss against Connecticut on Friday. They played tough defense and were able to drive often to score inside. Neither team had a strong advantage on the boards or in turnovers. They just made the plays late.
Kansas’s leading scorer was Johnson who had 16 points. McLemore had 14 on 5-7 shooting. No other Jayhawk scored in double digits. Withey was KU’s leading rebounder with seven. After a solid regular season debut, Perry Ellis made some mistakes, first with a weak shot attempt late, then turned it over with a travel where he picked up his dribble in the paint, tried to pass it off before a three second call, but caught it in the air for the violation. He looked like a freshman and only played 17 minutes.
As I said before – learning experience.
The two biggest Jayhawk highlights came courtesy of Jamari Traylor. The freshman forward had a huge follow-up dunk in the first half, then made a big block against the backboard late in the second half.
Kansas will look to rebound on Thursday at home against Chattanooga, a much less difficult opponent. Bill Self isn’t one to panic, and KU lost some games early in other seasons and fared just fine later on. Once this team gets some more experience together and starts to make the shots they need to make late in games, they’ll look a lot better on the court and should still be a big threat to any team facing off against them.