Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - A couple of powerhouse programs meet up in
Atlanta, as the 21st-ranked Michigan State Spartans take on the seventh-ranked
Kansas Jayhawks as part of the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome.
The Spartans return to the U.S. following a season-opening matchup with the
Connecticut Huskies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The outcome wasn't
exactly what Tom Izzo and his team expected, as the team rallied a couple of
times but couldn't maintain a lead in the second half, falling to UConn,
Bill Self's Jayhawks didn't have to travel in their season-opener and posted
their 40th straight home-opening win with a 74-50 rout of Southeast Missouri
State in the opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
Michigan State holds a 5-4 advantage in the series with Kansas. The teams last
met in the 2008-09 campaign, actually twice, with Michigan State claiming both
victories, a 75-62 win in East Lansing and a come-from-behind 67-62 victory in
the Sweet 16.
The Spartans dug themselves in an early hole against Connecticut in the
season-opener, but were able to battle back and actually take a couple of
leads in the second half, only to relinquish them in a four-point loss to the
Huskies. MSU outrebounded UConn 43-29 in the game, but shot a mediocre .375
from the floor overall, including a mere 4-of-17 from behind the arc. Keith
Appling led three Spartans in double figures with 17 points. Branden Dawson
added a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Gary Harris chipped
in with 11 points. Center Derrick Nix was just 1-of-5 from the field and
posted just six points, but did amass a game-high 11 rebounds. Strong
rebounding is nothing new for this team, as the Spartans have led the nation
in rebounding in four of the last 13 seasons and finished in the top 10
nationally eight times over that same span.
Kansas played in the National Championship Game a year ago and with three of
those starters back in the fold, the hope in Lawrence is that another run to
the Final Four is in the immediate future. It is a nice mix of youth and
veteran leadership with the incumbents being joined by nine freshmen. Senior
guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford will man the backcourt, while senior
center Jeff Withey anchors the pivot. In the win over SEMO, Withey dominated
the low post with a double-double with game-highs of 17 points and 12
rebounds. Perry Ellis just missed a double-double of his own with 15 points
and eight boards, while Naadir Tharpe chipped in with 10 points off the bench.
Kansas shot just .387 from the floor, a number weighed down by a poor 2-of-21
effort from three-point range. Still, the Jayhawks held SEMO to a mere .290
shooting and outscored the Redhawks 38-20 in the paint.
The Sports Network