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.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.