Not a bad bounce-back game for Kansas if I say so myself.
Frank Mason scored 21 points, including the game winning jumper with 1.8 seconds remaining, and Kansas held off a late Duke rally to prevail 77-75.
Kansas, coming off a gut-punch overtime loss to Indiana in Hawaii on Friday, initially got off to a slow start, trailing 15-6 within the first seven minutes of the game. Although Kansas tightened their defense, they still trailed 34-29 at halftime.
Duke had a scare of its own when with about 1:30 left to play, junior guard Grayson Allen landed awkwardly after a lay-up attempt, limping to the locker room . For a Duke team playing already without Top 15 freshmen Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Marques Bolden, it looked like another devastating blow. However, Allen returned to play in the second half without looking too affected.
In spite of Allen’s return, Kansas dominated most of the second half, roaring ahead to a 62-50 lead with 8 minutes left and still leading 75-68 with 1:30 remaining. Kansas did so in spite of shooting poorly from 3 (2-17) and the foul line (9-19) by decimating Duke inside the arc and driving to the hoop.
Freshman forward Josh Jackson, after a rough game against Indiana, scored 9 straight points against Duke in the second half, and finished with 15 points on 7-9 shooting.
But with Duke trailing late, all of a sudden they got hot. The Blue Devils went on a 7-0 run late, including baskets from sophomore guard Luke Kennard, who ended up being Duke’s high-point man with 22 on 7-10 shooting, and Grayson Allen, who scored 12 but only on 4-15 shooting, including missing 11 of his first 12 shots before finally breaking through Kansas’ relentless defense. Duke managed to get stops between possessions and finally tied the game on Frank Jackson’s 3 with 15 seconds left.
This, of course, set up Mason’s heroics. The senior guard drove to the free throw line, and lofted a gorgeous jumper over Duke senior guard Matt Jones that looked good the moment it left his hand.
A theme throughout the game for both sides was foul trouble. The officiating was very tight throughout, calling a lot of touch fouls, resulting in 49 fouls total for the game and both teams reaching the bonus within the first 8 minutes of both halves. For Kansas, Josh Jackson fouled out, and Mason, center Landen Lucas, forward Carlton Bragg Jr., and forward Udoka Azubuike finished with 4 fouls. For Duke, senior forward Amile Jefferson fouled out, and Jackson, Jones, and center Chase Jeter finished with 4 fouls.
For Kansas, who improved to 8-17 all-time against #1 teams, this game legitimized themselves as a Top 5 team, a team that does well in the face of adversary, and a clutch team. To no one’s surprised, Kansas is a potential Final Four team again.
For Duke, this game showed that in spite of their talent and resolve, a six man rotation will not get the job done against teams such as Kansas, which Duke learned from last year. Duke may still be a Top 10 team, but in order to get that #1 spot back, they need Giles, Tatum, and Bolden, as well as improved, smarter defense.