Ochai Agbaji scored a career-high 29 points Tuesday and keyed a Kansas defense that forced 16 turnovers as the No. 3 Jayhawks toppled Michigan State 87-74 at the Champions Classic in New York.
Agbaji, a 14.1-point scorer last season when the Jayhawks bowed out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, provided a savvy presence alongside several additions to Bill Self’s roster.
The Kansas coach experimented with different combinations and eventually got 21 points from his bench, though Agbaji proved superior, going 9 of 17 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range, while draining all eight of his free throws.
Remy Martin, the Big 12 preseason player of the year and Arizona State transfer, went scoreless in the first half but still finished with 15 points. David McCormack added 10 points.
The Jayhawks played without one of their four returning starters, Jalen Wilson, who is serving a four-game suspension for a DUI arrest.
A technical foul on Michigan State coach Tom Izzo with 13:01 remaining sent Agbaji to the line for two made free throws before he followed with a 3-pointer and a 61-50 margin with 12:05 left. Kansas then scored on its next four possessions and went up 69-54 with 9:33 to play, prompting Izzo to call a time out.
The unranked Spartans, who needed three wins over top 25 teams down the stretch last season to earn an NCAA Tournament bid, showed their mettle but couldn’t solve the Jayhawks’ improved athleticism and depth.
Four Michigan State scorers cracked double figures, including a team-high 17 points from A.J. Hoggard. The Spartans received 35 bench points.
Agbaji netted 12 first-half points to lead Kansas led 39-32 at the break. The Jayhawks ended the half on a 9-1 run. Bobby Pettiford contributed a three-point play during that flurry and had seven first-half points.
Before the closing stretch of the half, the teams traded leads 10 times as both coaches substituted liberally. Hoggard scored eight points in the first half to pace the Spartans. His drive with 3:46 left provided Michigan State its last first-half bucket. The Spartans missed their last six attempts and committed 11 first-half turnovers.
-Field Level Media