In what could be a preview of a Final Four matchup, Kansas and Duke didn’t disappoint in front of a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Frank Mason III drained a game-winning jumper with three seconds left to lift No. 7 Kansas over No. 1 Duke, 77-75, in the nightcap of the State Farm Champions Classic Tuesday night in New York City.
Earlier in the night, Kentucky was led by freshman Malik Monk to a 69-48 win over Michigan State.
If Kentucky and Michigan State were the appetizers, Duke and Kansas made sure to deliver the main course for everyone in attendance, including New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.
Kansas, sparked by Mason, kept Duke in check throughout much of the second half with a handful of ten-point leads. Mason converted on an and-one, with 1:54 left in the game, to give the Jayhawks a 75-68 lead.
Duke answered back to get within three when freshman guard Frank Jackson hit a three, with 16 seconds left, to tie the game at 75-75 and cause the Duke portion of the crowd to explode.
However, with overtime just three seconds away, that’s when Mason hit his biggest shot of the night to win it for Kansas.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Mason said afterwards. “I just have to thank god and thank my teammates for putting me in a position to make the shot.”
Mason scored 30 in the Jayhawks’ previous game, a 103-99 overtime loss to Indiana in Hawaii.
“Yeah that was quite a play we called,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said to laughter in the media room afterwards. “Just get out of his way. Yeah it’s good. He’s made a lot of big plays for us. I don’t know if he’s made game-winners, but he’s certainly made a lot of big plays, he put it into overtime against Indiana too, I think with two seconds left. He’s a stud. He didn’t get any rhythm the first half, but second half he played a little smarter offensively and drove it downhill much better.”
Luke Kennard led Duke with 22 points, Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson each added 12 points.
Duke was also without Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Marques Bolden. Three players who will play key roles for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Injuries or no injuries, Krzyzewski wasn’t about to use that as an excuse.
“It was a heck of a game,” Krzyzewski said afterwards. “They’re really good. Their backcourt … it’s a big time backcourt. Those two kids (Frank Mason and Devonte Graham) are just so solid and obviously Bill does a great job of coaching all those kids. They played hard. But, those two guards are terrific guards.”
When Duke is back at full health, they’re going to be a dangerous team. The fact that the Blue Devils were missing so much talent in this game, and still almost pulled off the win is a testament to the team Coach K has going out there this season.
Overall, the Champions Classic was once again a success. When it’s all said and done, these four programs will have plenty to do with how the road to the Final Four plays out in March.