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Shorthanded Kansas tops Duke's latest wave of freshmen in Champions Classic

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 15: Zuby Ejiofor #35 of the Kansas Jayhawks dunks the ball during the first half in the game against the Duke Blue Devils during the Champions Classic at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on November 15, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Kansas veterans and newcomers came up big against Duke. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons via Getty Images)

Down two rotation players and head coach Bill Self, Kansas still managed to pull out a big win against Duke at the Champions Classic on Tuesday.

The defending champions won 69-64 against the Blue Devils, who were again debuting a talented freshman class on the national stage.

Out for the game were big man Zach Clemence (nose) and freshman MJ Rice (illness), as well as head coach Bill Self, who is currently serving a four-game suspension. The Jayhawks didn't look troubled to start, though, as they opened the game by taking a 17-6 lead.

Duke slowly found its footing as the game went on, led by one of their top freshman, Kyle Filipowski. The No. 5 recruit in the Rivals rankings for the Class of 2022 posted 17 points and 14 rebounds, with fellow freshmen Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor and Dereck Lively II all seeing significant minutes. The scariest part: Rivals No. 1 recruit Dariq Whitehead didn't play a minute, as he's still recovering from a foot fracture.

A freshmen-led surge put the Blue Devils up by six points early in the second half, and they were leading by five points as late as 4:08 left in the game.

Then Kansas bounced back, as they have in the past against Tobacco Road teams. Coming up big was junior forward Jalen Wilson, who had 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while junior guard Dajuan Harris Jr. had six points and 10 assists.

Kansas's Gradey Dick comes up clutch

Had you heard the hero of the game was a freshman, you would have probably assumed Duke won.

Instead, it was Rivals No. 28 recruit Gradey Dick. The Kansas native made three straight big baskets, first hitting a 3-pointer to retake the lead, then a dunk and a layup to give the Jayhawks their final lead:

Dick finished with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

Tuesday would have been a big win given the headwind they were each facing. Duke was playing its first big game under rookie head coach Jon Scheyer, and definitely wanted to hit the ground running with its impressive collection of freshman. Instead, Kansas showed experience matters, even when the head coach isn't in the picture, while also showing a little of its own freshman star power.