The first game of the 2022-23 college basketball season played between top-10 teams delivered in a captivating way Tuesday night as No. 6 Kansas outlasted No. 7 Duke 69-64 during the Champions Classic at Indianapolis. The Jayhawks were without 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 key players from last season’s national title team, the Jayhawks looked like a national contender once again. Kansas freshman Gradey Dick came alive in crunch time for three clutch buckets in the final two and a half minutes, two of which gave the Jayhawks the lead.
His diving, twisting lay-up with 1:04 remaining made it a 65-62 lead for the Jayhawks, who rallied from a six-point deficit late in the second half. Dick had been scoreless for the half until his late finishing flury but finished with 14 points for the game.
For most of the second half, the Jayhawks essentially force-fed junior wing Jalen Wilson, who is the leading returning scorer after the losses of stars such as Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun to the NBA Draft. Wilson finished with a game-high 25 points and helped the Jayhawks weather a storm in the second half.
Duke trailed by 11 points early but settled in as the game progressed with freshman forward Kyle Filipowski standing out for his aggression in the second half. Filipowski led the Blue Devils with 17 points and 14 rebounds but was just 6 of 18 from the floor. Jeremy Roach added 16 points for Duke.
Both teams plagued by poor shooting
Duke had hit a respectable 34% of his 3-point attempts through two games entering Tuesday, but the Blue Devils went cold from beyond the arc against Kansas. Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor were each 1 for 5 from deep, and Filipowski was 1 of 6 while Jaylen Blakes and Jacob Grandison combined to go 0 of 5.
Kansas wasn’t much better than the Jayhawks hit only 3 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, but KU did have more success attacking the rim. Overall, Kansas shot 46.3% from the floor compared to 35.8% for Duke. Undersized big man KJ Adams Jr. quietly made 4 of 4 attempts from the field without being a focal point of KU’s offense. His task against Duke’s much taller bigs was unenviable, but he handled it well enough to allow the Jayhawks to capitalize in other ways.
Kansas shows off its wings
How KU capitalized was through the aggression of its versatile corps of wings. Wilson made into the lane against anyone who guarded him and Dick managed to get loose in key moments. Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar also provided a big lift in the first half, particularly early when he often found himself guarded by Filipowski, a 7-footer. McCullar scored eight of his 12 points in the opening half. He had six early as the Jayhawks opened up a 17-6 lead less than seven minutes in.
The size and versatility of the Wilson-Dick-McCullar trio stood out for Kansas. Though just three games into his career, Dick looks capable of playing a similar type of role to the role Christian Braun played for the Jayhawks on their way to a national title last season. Though replacing Ochai Agbaji is going to be a bit more difficult, it’s clear KU has the perimeter weapons necessary to be a matchup nightmare once again.
Key players missing in action
Neither team had their full roster available. One of Duke’s five-star freshmen, versatile wing Dariq Whitehead, has yet to make his debut while recovering from offseason foot surgery. The 6-6 wing would have given Duke another versatile defender to deploy against Wilson and Dick.
Kansas was without two players as well, though. Freshman guard MJ Rice (illness) and sophomore Zach Clemence (injury) were unavailable. Rice is a McDonald’s All-American who played a major role off the bench last week, and Clemence is a sophomore fighting for minutes in the front court.