Image: State Farm Champions Classic - Michigan State v Kansas

Michigan State outlasts Kansas in a thriller

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ATLANTA – Keith Appling scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half as Michigan State used a 13-5 run over the final four minutes knock off No. 7 Kansas in the thrilling opening game of the Champions Classic, 67-64. Appling hit a three to give the Spartans a 65-61 lead with about a minute to go, and after a transition and-one bucket from Kansas freshman Ben McLemore, he hit a tough, up-and-under layup for the final margin.

Appling and freshman guard Gary Harris were sensational down the stretch for the Spartans. They scored 19 of the last 27 Michigan State points, erasing what Kansas had stretched to a six point lead. They combined for 37 points on the night.

This win was a far cry from the Spartan team we saw out in Germany. They were aggressive, they were active on the glass, and they looked like a team that could make a push for a top three finish in the loaded Big Ten.

Perhaps more importantly — and it’s something that I’ll touch on in a later post — Michigan State found their go-to guy in Appling. Harris was terrific as a complimentary scorer tonight, but it was clear that the ball was going to be in the hands of Appling at crunchtime. Izzo trusted him, and he performed.

Kansas, on the other hand, is still looking for that piece.

Elijah Johnson led the way with 16 points for the Jayhawks tonight while Ben McLemore chipped in with 14, but Kansas had no one to give the ball to down the stretch. After opening up a 59-54 lead with five minutes left on the clock, Kansas proceeded to put together nothing but ugly possessions. Their only points came on a pair of free throws from Johnson and an and-one, transition layup from McLemore that came after a missed foul call resulted in an Appling turnover.

Until that go-to guy develops, Kansas is going to have issues in close games.

They need their Keith Appling.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Clemson lands 2017 guard

Brad Brownell
AP Photo
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Clemson landed a quality commitment on Tuesday as Class of 2017 guard A.J. Oliver committed to the Tigers. The son of Clemson women’s head coach Audra Smith, Oliver is regarded as a three-star prospect, according to Rivals, although some others view him as a top-100 caliber player.

The 6-foot-4 Oliver attends nearby Daniel High School and should have some time to get acclimated with the players and coaches before he sets foot on campus. A versatile guard who plays hard, Oliver showed that he can make plays with the ball in his hands this summer with the Upward Stars.

Oliver is Clemson’s first commitment in the Class of 2017 and it’s a strong start for head coach Brad Brownell.

Arizona’s Tarczewski out 4-to-6 weeks

Kaleb Tarczewski, Sean Miller
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Arizona will be without senior center Kaleb Tarczewski for 4-to-6 weeks, the school announced on Tuesday. The 7-foot Tarczewski suffered a stress reaction and strained muscle to his left foot and he’ll have some time to heal before the main portion of the Pac-12 conference schedule.

The experienced Tarczewski was averaging 8.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game before going down with injury. Without the senior in the lineup, Arizona fell to Providence in the Wooden Legacy last week. Without Tarczewski in the lineup, the Wildcats could turn to center Dusan Ristic while forward Ryan Anderson has had some solid outings this season.

Missing Tarczewski for the rest of non-conference play will hurt but he’ll get to rest and recover for the stretch run while the Wildcats can mix in some new frontcourt pieces.