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Brenden Welper and Wayne Staats | November 6, 2019

Kentucky beats No. 1 Michigan State; Duke escapes Kansas in 2019 Champions Classic

Four of men's college basketball's elite programs tipped off the 2019 season on Tuesday night in the annual Champions Classic. No. 4 Duke outlasted No. 3 Kansas 68-66 in the first game, and No. 2 Kentucky beat No. 1 Michigan State 67-62 in the following clash.

This year's Classic was played at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and featured the top 4 teams in the preseason AP Poll. Here were the final scores and stats:

The No. 4 Duke Blue Devils defeated the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 68-66 in the first game of the 2019 Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. In a contest that featured 42 combined turnovers, Duke found just enough offense to hang on for the win.

Devon Dotson led all scorers with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. But his six turnovers were a microcosm of how the night unfolded for his Jayhawks. Kansas committed 26 in total and 18 in the first half alone. 

Duke wasn't perfect either. The Blue Devils had 16 turnovers of their own. But this game eventually came down to which team executed when it mattered most. 

Tre Jones led Duke with 15 points, six rebounds and six assists. The sophomore guard came up with a key defensive rebound in the closing seconds.

The nightcap also lived up to its billing. 

The top two teams in the country met as No. 1 Michigan State faced No. 2 Kentucky. Like the first game, this one began rather slow. But Cassius Winston and Tyrese Maxey shined from start to finish.

Winston was the only Spartan to score in double figures, finishing with 21 points, four assists and two rebounds. Maxey, meanwhile, made quite the impression in his collegiate debut. The freshman posted a game-high 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He also added five rebounds and two assists.

Kentucky survived every Spartans run, and left Madison Square Garden with a 69-62 victory. 

Both games were mired in sloppy play for long stretches. But that's to be expected for a season opener. Especially with the introduction of an expanded 3-point line. The four teams in the Champions Classic combined to shoot 29.8 percent (23-of-77) from deep on Tuesday night.

No. 1 Michigan St. vs. No. 2 Kentucky: Score, updates

Kentucky 69 , Michigan State 62 | Final

Tyrese Maxey's debut lived up to the hype. Not only did he lead all scorers with 26 points, he sealed off his defender to come away with the rebound on Kyle Ahrens' missed 3-pointer.

Kentucky 65, Michigan State 60 | 2nd 0:59

Maxey comes through with a clutch triple several feet behind the 3-point line. He leads all scorers with 26 points on the night. 

Kentucky 62, Michigan State 60 | 2nd 1:27

Cassius Winston completes an old-fashioned three-point play with a beautiful Euro-step layup.

Kentucky 60, Michigan State 56 | 2nd 3:45

Tyrese Maxey blows by Rockets Watts Jr. with a nice hesitation move, and finishes with a layup off the glass. But whenever it appears that Kentucky is about to pull away, the Spartans come back down the floor and respond.

Kentucky 54, Michigan State 48 | 2nd 7:57

And now it's the Spartans who go on a run of their own, scoring seven straight points to make it a two-possession game. The last five or so minutes of play have been the smoothest of the night in the Champions Classic. 

Kentucky 54, Michigan State 41 | 2nd 9:57

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Kahlil Whitney and Nate Sestina have given the Wildcats their largest lead of the night. Those two triples add to a 9-0 run for Kentucky.

Kentucky 48 , Michigan State 41 | 2nd 11:13

Winston picks up his third foul as he went to close out on an Immanuel Quickley 3-point attempt. Quickley made all three free throws, and neither team has been able to sustain much of a run. 

Kentucky 36 , Michigan State 32 | 2nd 16:00

The Spartans are moving the ball much better in this second half. They've caught Kentucky out of position and are driving to the basket with more assertiveness. 

Kentucky 34 , Michigan State 28| 2nd 18:08

Michigan State begins the half on a 4-0 run, capped off by a layup in transition by Aaron Henry. Kentucky head coach John Calipari calls timeout. 

Kentucky 34, Michigan State 24 | Halftime

Like the first game of this year's Champions Classic, this one started off slow. There were 16 personal fouls committed in the first nine minutes of play. But eventually Kentucky and Michigan State began to settle in. It was mainly a battle of guard play between Cassius Winston (12 points) and Tyrese Maxey (11 points). 

Kentucky 30 , Michigan State 23 | 1st  2:38

Something to note is the free-throw disparity in this game. The Wildcats have made 16 trips to the free-throw line, while the Spartans only have six. Michigan State hasn't been as willing to attack the basket compared to Kentucky.

Kentucky 16, Michigan State 16 | 1st 9:47

Winston has gotten into a rhythm, hitting a step-back 3-pointer and finding a rolling Marcus Bingham Jr. for an alley-oop. Both teams have picked up the pace on offense. 

Kentucky 13, Michigan State 9 | 1st 11:53

Kentucky has since cooled off, and hasn't made a field goal in the last five minutes and counting. But they still maintain a slim lead thanks to two free throws from Hagans.

Kentucky 11, Michigan State 4| 1st 16:53

Ashton Hagans hits a pull-up jumper in front of Cassius Winston. The Wildcats are rolling early on in the first half.

Michigan State 0, Kentucky 0 | 1st 20:00

We are underway from Madison Square Garden for the second game of the 2019 Champions Classic. Here are the starting lineups for the Wildcats and the Spartans.

Pregame (9:50 p.m.): No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky | Everything you need to know

  • Also lost their top-three scorers from last season (P.J. Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson) to the NBA draft.
  • The Wildcats have added two top recruits for 2019-20: point guard Tyrese Maxey and small forward Kahlil Whitney.
  • Guard Ashton Hagans returns for his sophomore season. As a freshman, Hagans led the Wildcats in assists (4.3) and steals (1.6) per game in 2018-19. He also averaged 7.7 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting.
Michigan State
  • The only team in this year's Champions Classic to return to their top scorer in 2018-19.
  • That is senior point guard Cassius Winston, who averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game on 46 percent shooting. He is also on the Naismith Trophy Watch List.
  • Fellow guard Joshua Langford is also returning for his senior season. But he'll be sidelined until at least January with an injury.
  • No top-ranked recruits for the Spartans this year. But out of the four schools in the Champions Classic, Michigan State's roster has (arguably) the lowest turnover from last season in terms of talent.


No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 4 Duke: Score, updates

Duke 68, Kansas 66 | Final

The Jayhawks miss three jump shots on their final possession. Duke guard Tre Jones comes up with the rebound, and Kansas is forced to foul him with six seconds to play. Jones makes both free throws to seal the victory. Dotson banks in a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Duke 64, Kansas 63 | 2nd 0:37

Jack White comes up with a huge steal underneath the basket. He slid over to deny a wide-open Azubuike on the right block.

Duke 56, Kansas 55 | 2nd 5:12

Duke forces a shot-clock violation against the Jayhawks. Kansas wanted to go inside Azubuike, but he was immediately doubled after receiving the entry pass. Azubuike tried to kick it back up top Dotson but it was too late.

Duke 56, Kansas 52 | 2nd 7:46

Both teams have found their footing offensively in the second half, albeit with different styles. The Blue Devils have found success running their half-court offense. Kansas has been at its best while attacking in transition before the defense has a chance to set up.

Kansas 47, Duke 47 | 2nd 11:34

Kansas seems willing to cede the 3-point line to Duke, almost daring the Blue Devils to shoot. Duke has fired at will from beyond the arc, but are just 6-of-18 on 3-point attempts. 

Kansas 43, Duke 37 | 2nd 15:42

Foul trouble could be a problem for Kansas down the stretch. Azubuike and Dotson each have four fouls, while Marcus Garrett has three. 

Kansas 43, Duke 37 | 2nd 15:51

The Jayhawks use an 11-0 run to pull in front of the Blue Devils. Kansas made some nice plays in transition by pushing the ball against a backpedaling Duke defense. Azubuike also found Agbaji on a sweet backdoor cut.

Duke 33, Kansas 30 | 2nd 20:00

The second half is underway from Madison Square Garden. Devon Dotson (nine points) and Tre Jones (eight points) lead the Jayhawks and Blue Devils in scoring, respectively.

Duke 33, Kansas 30 | Halftime

Despite committing 18 turnovers, the Jayhawks only trail the Blue Devils 33-30. Kansas is shooting 47.6 percent from the floor, while Duke has hit 37.1 percent of their field-goal attempts. Jayhawks point guard Devon Dotson leads all scorers with nine points on 2-of-4 shooting. Dotson's aggressiveness on offense has paid off, as he is 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.

Duke 31, Kansas 26 | 1st  2:18

Tre Jones has beat multiple Kansas defenders off the dribble tonight. He has caught the Jayhawks' help defense out of position, and has muscled his way inside for several layups. 

Kansas 22, Duke 20 | 1st 6:05

Duke is doubling Azubuike and McCormack whenever they get the ball in the post. Kansas has struggled to find its two post players in the paint. Of course, the 14 turnovers haven't helped the Jayhawks settle in offensively either. 

Kansas 20, Duke 18 | 1st 7:46

The Jayhawks are defending the high pick-and-roll well. Tre Jones and Wendell Moore haven't been able to get much separation off of ball screens, and many of Duke's field-goal attempts have been contested.

Kansas 11, Duke 10 | 1st 13:19

Azubuike commits another travel and heads to the bench. He has three turnovers already.

Duke 10 , Kansas 9 | 1st 14:20

Some sloppy play from both teams early on. Udoka Azubuike picked up a travel on an entry pass with an open lane in front of him.

Duke 10, Kansas 9 | 1st 15:38

Duke's Matthew Hurt leads all scorers with five points on 2-of-3 shooting. All five Jayhawks starters have scored.

Kansas 2, Duke 0 | 1st 19:17

Ochai Agbaji gets the scoring started with a right-handed dunk.

Duke 0, Kansas 0 | 1st 20:00

We are underway from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Here are the starting lineups for the Blue Devils and the Jayhawks.


Pregame (6:05 p.m.): No. 4 Duke vs. No. 3 Kansas 7 p.m. ET | Everything you need to know

  • Lost their top-three scorers (Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish) from 2018-19 to the NBA draft.
  • Point guard Tre Jones is returning for his sophomore season, after averaging 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and a team-high 5.3 assists per game last year.
  • Jones also shot 41.4 percent from the floor, but only made 26.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.
  • Added three highly-ranked recruits for 2019-20 in center Vernon Carey Jr., power forward Matthew Hurt and small forward Wendell Moore.
  • Averaged more blocks per game (6.8) than any other Division I team in 2018-19.
  • Lost their leading scorer and rebounder in Dedric Lawson, who entered the NBA draft. Lawson went undrafted, but is currently with the Austin Spurs of the NBA G League.
  • Center Udoka Azubuike and point guard Devon Dotson return for their senior and sophomore seasons, respectively.
  • Both were recently named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List.
  • Azubuike only appeared in nine games last year after suffering a hand injury back in January.
  • He still managed to averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game prior to the season-ending injury.

Preview: 2019 Champions Classic

This year's games feature teams that have hopes of going on deep March Madness runs. Last year, Michigan State advanced to the Final Four by beating overall No. 1 seed Duke in the Elite Eight. Kentucky reached the final eight, but the Wildcats fell to Auburn. Kansas bowed out in the Second Round to eventual Final Four-bound Auburn.

Andy Katz expects big things from these four. In his latest 2020 NCAA tournament bracket predictions, Katz has Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky as No. 1 seeds. He has the Blue Devils as a No. 3 seed in Kentucky's region.

In the opener, KU looks to go 3-0 against Duke in the Champions Classic. Tre Jones is back at point guard for the Blue Devils along with another strong group of newcomers. Kansas has star power as well in Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike. Both could be battling for Big 12 player of the year honors by season's end.

BRACKETOLOGY: Andy Katz's 2020 NCAA tournament bracket predictions

In the second game, Michigan State guard Cassius Winston is generally seen as the leading player of the year candidate. He averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 assists and 3 rebounds per game to lead the Spartans to the eighth Final Four for coach Tom Izzo. But he'll be facing a typically talented Kentucky team led by guard Ashton Hagans and star recruit Tyrese Maxey.

The 2019 event continues a trend of seeing ranked vs. ranked games. There have been 36 teams (18 games) through the years — and 35 have been ranked. The 2011 Michigan State team is the only one to not be ranked at the time of the Champions Classic. In fact, there have been more No. 1 vs. No. 2 games (three) than unranked teams (one) in Champions Classic history.

Not only that, but there have been six No. 1 teams in the history.

  • No. 1 Kentucky lost to No. 2 Michigan State in 2013
  • No. 1 Kentucky beat No. 5 Kansas in 2014
  • No. 1 Duke lost to No. 7 Kansas in 2016
  • No. 1 Duke beat No. 2 Michigan State in 2017
  • No. 1 Kansas beat No. 10 Michigan State in 2018
  • No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky (TBD)

Champions Classic: Scores, history

The 2019 Champions Classic marks the ninth edition of the event, as it started in 2011. It's also the third time the Classic will be at Madison Square Garden — the arena hosted the inaugural games in 2011 and again in 2016.

Here's a rundown of the event history, including AP Poll rankings at the time of the games:

Date Games Location
Nov. 15, 2011 No. 6 Duke 74, Michigan State 69
No. 2 Kentucky 75, No. 12 Kansas 65
Madison Square Garden
(New York City)
Nov. 13, 2012 No. 21 Michigan State 67, No. 7 Kansas 64
No. 9 Duke 75, No. 3 Kentucky 68
Georgia Dome
Nov. 12, 2013 No. 2 Michigan State 78, No. 1 Kentucky 74
No. 5 Kansas 94, No. 4 Duke 83
United Center
Nov. 18, 2014 No. 4 Duke 81, No. 19 Michigan State 71
No. 1 Kentucky 72, No. 5 Duke 40
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
No. 17, 2015 No. 2 Kentucky 74, No. 5 Duke 63
No. 13 Michigan State 79, No. 4 Kansas 73
United Center
Nov. 15, 2016 No. 2 Kentucky 69, No. 13 Michigan State 48
No. 7 Kansas 77, No. 1 Duke 75
Madison Square Garden
(New York City)
Nov. 14, 2017 No. 1 Duke 88, No. 2 Michigan State 81
No. 4 Kansas 65, No. 7 Kentucky 61
United Center
Nov. 6, 2018 No. 1 Kansas 92, No. 10 Michigan State 87
No. 4 Duke 118, No. 2 Kentucky 84
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Nov. 5, 2019 No. 4 Duke 68, No. 3 Kansas 66
No. 2 Kentucky 69, No. 1 Michigan State 62
Madison Square Garden
(New York City)

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Through eight completed years, there isn't much gap between the four teams by record. Duke tops the field at 5-3, with Kansas and Kentucky both 4-4. Michigan State is 3-5. But Kansas has the longest winning streak, as the Jayhawks have won three in a row.

Two teams are undefeated against a foe. Duke is 3-0 against Michigan State, most recently beating the Spartans in 2017. Kansas is 2-0 against Duke — and the two face off this season.

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