Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Kansas lived up to its No. 1 preseason ranking with a 92-87 opening-night win over No. 10 Michigan State.
The Spartans cut a 17-point second-half deficit down to three in the final minute but couldn’t get all the way back for the win.
Freshman Quentin Grimes led the way for the Jayhawks with 21 points in the 2018 Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Dedric Lawson added 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in the win.
Michigan State junior had 13 points and 11 assists, but the team missed the opportunity to add a resume-building win right out of the gate.
Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson Give Kansas Best Frontcourt in Country
College basketball has become guard-centric, but Kansas will win plenty of games this year thanks to the dominance in the post.
Dedric Lawson was the bigger name coming in after transferring from Memphis, being named a preseason All-American by the Associated Press. He didn’t exactly look like it offensively, shooting 2-of-10 in the first half before 5-of-18 from the field.
However, he still contributed in a big way despite his shot not falling, filling up the stat sheet with 14 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals.
Lawson averaged 19.2 points per game as a sophomore, so we know he is capable of big games as a scorer. The fact that he can help even when things aren’t going well really shows the type of impact he can have this season.
Meanwhile, Udoka Azubuike was a real breakout performer with 17 points and four blocks against Michigan State.
He was a great defensive player last year and continued that Tuesday, but his work in the post was also noticeable in the win:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops
Udoka Azubuike scoring in the paint tonight. Junior big man looks slimmer and continues to make strides with his offensive game.
Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello
Udoka Azubuike might have been the prospect I’ve been most wrong about in the last five years or so. Thought he’d be a marginal contributor at best — his improvement has been unbelievable. He’s borderline unstoppable when he gets the ball down low. https://t.co/EGe6ntOOjq
Michigan State had some big bodies to help contain these players, but few others in college basketball will have a chance against Lawson and Azubuike. Adding David McCormick and Mitch Lightfoot off the bench, and the pure size will be a huge advantage for the Jayhawks this season.
Even without Silvio De Sousa, who is being held out with his eligibility in question, Kansas has the most talented frontcourt in college basketball.
The schedule now gets easier for both teams in their home-openers next game. Michigan State will host Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday, while Kansas will face Vermont on Monday.
This article will be updated to provide more information soon.
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