Atlanta, GA – Keith Appling scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to lift 21st-ranked Michigan State to a narrow 67-64 victory over No. 7 Kansas in the Champions Classic from the Georgia Dome.
Freshman Gary Harris netted 18 points and Branden Dawson had 12 on 5-of-6 shooting as the Spartans (1-1) put forth a strong late charge to bounce back from Friday's season-opening 66-62 loss to Connecticut in Germany.
Michigan State trailed 59-54 with five minutes left, but outscored the Jayhawks 13-5 down the stretch.
"We got a little bit of our pride and character back after not playing as well over [in Germany]," said Spartans head coach Tom Izzo. "The trip wasn't easy, and it shows me a lot of character on these guys part."
Elijah Johnson finished with 16 points and Ben McLemore tallied 14 for Kansas (1-1), which was dealt a defeat in this event for a second consecutive year. In what would be a preview of the eventual National Championship Game, the Jayhawks were handed a 75-65 loss by Kentucky in the inaugural Champions Classic held at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Michigan State would move in front to stay on an 8-0 run ignited by a pair of Harris jumpers, with Derrick Nix providing the go-ahead points by hitting 1- of-2 free throws for a 60-59 edge with 2:50 left and Dawson sinking two foul shots less than a minute later to extend the margin.
Johnson made two from the line to bring Kansas within 62-61 with 1:47 left, but Appling buried a clutch 3-pointer on the other end to push Michigan State's advantage to four entering the final minute of play.
The Jayhawks would again make it a one-point game when McLemore was fouled while converting a fastbreak layup and knocked down the bonus shot. However, Appling drove the lane and scored on a nifty reverse move to put the Spartans up by a 67-64 count with 14 seconds to go.
Kansas had one final try to force overtime, but Travis Releford misfired on a 3-point attempt just before time expired.
"It was a fairly well-played game for about 35 minutes, and then we didn't play very well down the stretch," said Kansas head coach Bill Self.
The Jayhawks built a 45-38 lead with 12 minutes remaining following Naadir Tharpe's basket from beyond the arc, but Michigan State responded with six straight points capped by a pair of Appling buckets.
Michigan State would forge ahead for the first time in the second half when Appling drained a triple for a 54-53 edge with 6:55 left, but a 6-0 spurt that culminated with Jeff Withey's short jumper gave Kansas a five-point bulge heading into the contest's final five minutes.
Down 26-25 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Kansas put together an 8-2 flurry to grab a five-point lead -- the largest by either team in the opening period.
The Jayhawks took advantage of some sloppy ball-handling by the Spartans, with Michigan State committing two turnovers that led to KU baskets during the run.
Back-to-back layups by Nix and Harris brought Michigan State within a point, but Jamari Traylor's putback dunk with 58 seconds remaining enabled the Jayhawks to take a 35-32 advantage into the locker room.
Michigan State had a 74-69 loss to Duke in last year's Champions Classic, a doubleheader featuring four of the nation's premier programs (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State) playing a round-robin tournament in three different cities (New York, Atlanta, Chicago) over a three-year span ... The Spartans have now won three straight meetings against Kansas, including a 67-62 decision in the Sweet 16 of the 2009 NCAA Tournament ... The Jayhawks made good on 4-of-9 three-point attempts after making just 2-of-21 shots from long range in Friday's 74-55 win over Southeast Missouri State ... Michigan State backup point guard Travis Trice did not play due to a concussion sustained in the season opener.