NEW YORK CITY – Twenty-eight turnovers were too much for No. 3 Kansas to overcome as the Jayhawks fell to No. 4 Duke, 68-66, Tuesday night in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson led KU with 17 points on the night, but it wasn’t enough as KU suffered its first season-opening loss since 2016.
While the Jayhawks hit over 52 percent of their field-goal tries (10-of-19) in the opening 20 minutes of play, KU’s lack of ball security helped the Blue Devils gain a narrow edge by the intermission. Kansas committed 18 turnovers in the first frame, which Duke managed to convert into 19 points. The Blue Devils took a 33-30 lead into halftime, their third-straight halftime edge over the Jayhawks at the Champions Classic.
Kansas came out of the locker room and quickly turned the momentum with a 14-0 run. The spurt helped KU built its lead to nine points, less than six minutes after the restart, with Ochai Agbaji connecting on one of his two 3-pointers on the night, highlighting the impressive Kansas stretch. It didn’t last though as the Jayhawks continued to be careless with the ball. KU gave it away nine more times in the second stanza and the Blue Devils took advantage.
Kansas, which went 13-for-31 (41 percent) in the second half, managed only five field goals in the final 11 minutes of the half as Duke was able to trim down the Jayhawk advantage to single digits by the five-minute mark. IT seemed as though KU would weather the storm as Udoka Azubuike converted on a 3-point play with a dunk and a foul that put the Jayhawks on top 58-56 with 4:39 to play.
Duke managed to outsprint KU to the finish and outscored the Jayhawks 12-8 over the final four minutes, all while Kansas managed just two field goals in that span. Dotson banked in a desperation 3-pointer as time expired, but it wasn’t enough as the Jayhawks suffered their first loss in the Champions Classic since 2015.
Dotson led all scorers on the night with 17 points, which included a 6-of-8 clip from the free throw line. Agbaji and Marcus Garrett rounded out the Jayhawks in double-figures with 15 and 12 points, respectively. KU ended the game shooting 46 percent (23-of-50) from the field compared to Duke’s 35.9 percent (23-of-64) shooting clip. The Blue Devils converted KU’s 28 turnovers, the most by a KU squad in a game since 1992, into 29 points.
No. 3/3 Kansas will open its home portion of the 2019-20 when it plays host to UNC Greensboro of the Southern Conference. The Spartans went 29-7 last season and finished second in the league with a 15-3 record. Kansas won the only meeting with UNCG, 105-66, on Nov. 22, 2012, in Allen Fieldhouse. KU has won a mind-boggling 46-consecutive regular-season home openers in Allen Fieldhouse, a streak which started in the 1973-74 season.