The first game of the 2022-23 college basketball season between top-10 teams was enthralling Tuesday night, with No. 6 Kansas outlasted No. 7 Duke 69-64. The Jayhawks were without coach Bill Self, who served the third game of a self-imposed four-game suspension in response to NCAA violations.
But even without Self and some key players from last season’s national title team, the Jayhawks look like a national contender again. Kansas freshman Grady 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 layup with 1:04 left gave the Jayhawks a 65-62 lead, as they rallied from a six-point deficit late in the second half. Dick was held scoreless in the half until his late finishing flurry, but finished with 14 points for the game.
For much of the second half, the Jayhawks forced junior wing Jalen Wilson, the lead returner after losing stars like Ochai Agbaji and Christian Brown to the NBA Draft. Wilson finished with a game-high 25 points and helped the Jayhawks weather the storm in the second half.
Duke fell behind by 11 points early, but freshman Kyle Filipowski settled into the second half as the game wore on with his aggressiveness outside. 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 suffered from poor shooting
Duke hit a respectable 34% of its 3-point attempts through two games entering Tuesday, but the Blue Devils went cold from beyond the arc against Kansas. Jeremy Roach and Tyrus Proctor were 1-for-5 from deep, and Filipowski was 1-of-6, while Jaylen Blakes and Jacob Grandison combined to go 0-for-5.
Kansas wasn’t great as the Jayhawks hit just 3 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, but KU had more success attacking the rim. Overall, Kansas shot 46.3% from the floor compared to Duke’s 35.8%. The great man K.J. Adams Jr. was a quiet focal point of KU’s offense, making 4 of 4 attempts from the field. His work against Duke’s taller bigs was enviable, but he handled it well enough to allow the Jayhawks to invest in other ways.
Kansas shows its wings
How KU capitalized on the aggressiveness of its versatile wings. Wilson entered the lane against anyone who guarded him, and Dick got loose in key moments. Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCuller also provided a big lift in the first half, especially early on when he found himself guarded by the 7-foot Filipowski. McCuller scored eight of his 12 points in the opening half. He had six starts as the Jayhawks opened up a 17-6 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
The size and versatility of the Wilson-Dick-McCuller trio stood out for Kansas. Even though he’s just three games into his career, Dick is playing a similar role to the one Christian Brown played for the Jayhawks last season en route to a national title. While replacing Ochai Agbaji will be a bit tougher, it’s clear that KU has the perimeter weapons needed to be a matchup dream again.
Key players are not active
No team has received its full roster. One of Duke’s five-star recruits, versatile wing Tarik Whitehead, has yet to debut as he recovers from offseason foot surgery. A 6-6 division against Wilson and Dick would have given Duke another versatile defender.
Kansas was without two players. The new guard is MJ. Rice (illness) and sophomore Zach Clemens (injury) were unavailable. Rice is a McDonald’s All-American who played a key role off the bench last week, and Clemens is a sophomore fighting for frontcourt minutes.
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