ATLANTA — Keith Appling scored 19 points and took command down the stretch, scoring off a brilliant drive with 13.5 seconds left that carried No. 21 Michigan State to a 67-64 upset of No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday night.
The Spartans (1-1) rebounded from a season-opening loss to Connecticut. They kept up their road show with a doubleheader at the Georgia Dome — site of this season’s Final Four — featuring four of the nation’s best teams. No. 3 Kentucky faced No. 9 Duke in the second game.
The Jayhawks (1-1) led 59-54 with 5 minutes remaining, showing signs of taking control in a game that was tight all the way. But Michigan State rallied behind its brilliant guards.
Freshman Gary Harris scored 18 points, including back-to-back baskets that sparked an 8-0 run. Appling, the leading returning scorer for the Spartans, took over from there.
He confused the Kansas defense playing off a screen, winding up with an open 3-pointer with 1:35 remaining that pushed Michigan State to a 65-61 lead. Ben McLemore converted a three-point play, but Travis Releford missed a potential tying 3 at the buzzer.
Elijah Johnson led Kansas with 16 points.
Kansas center Jeff Withey, who played so well in last season’s NCAA tournament, wasn’t much of a factor against the Spartans. He was held to eight points and seven rebounds, along with four turnovers.
But the big man knocked down a hook, giving the Jayhawks what amounted to a comfortable lead in this one — a five-point margin.
Not comfortable enough.
Michigan State scored the next eight points. Harris swished a jumper, then darted into the lane to flip in a one-hander. Derrick Nix hit a pair of free throws on separate trips to the line, putting the Spartans ahead. Then, after Withey fumbled away an errant pass from Johnson, Branden Dawson hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead with just over 2 minutes remaining.
MICHIGAN 77, CLEVELAND STATE 47: Tim Hardaway Jr. had 17 points and six rebounds, and No. 5 Michigan advanced to the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off with a 77-47 victory over Cleveland State on Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It was the third straight victory by at least 30 points for the Wolverines (3-0), who shot 51 percent from the field against a Cleveland State (2-1) team coming off an overtime win the day before.
Nik Stauskas scored 15 points and Trey Burke added 12 points and seven assists for Michigan, which closed the first half on a 29-5 to take a 42-14 lead at the break.
Anton Grady led the Vikings with 15 points.
The Wolverines shot 25 of 40 from 3-point range in their first two games but went only 9 of 24 Tuesday night.
Michigan is rarely shy about shooting from beyond the arc, but the Wolverines didn’t really need to against the Vikings. They raced out to an 8-0 lead on layups by Burke, Hardaway and Jordan Morgan and then a dunk by Morgan.
Glenn Robinson III missed a dunk on an alley-oop attempt from Burke, and Grady’s layup at the other end made it 10-7, but it didn’t stay close for long.
Burke made another nice pass to Robinson, and this time the freshman converted the dunk for a 19-9 lead. Michigan blew the game open without making another 3-pointer until Hardaway hit one with 57 seconds left in the half.
Michigan shot 64 percent from the field in the first half.
The Wolverines entered the season with high expectations, largely because of Burke and Hardaway. But the much-hyped freshman class is contributing already, as well. Mitch McGary had one nice sequence in the first half when he brought the ball up along the right sideline in transition, then after the Wolverines scored he hustled back to draw a charge under the basket.
McGary finished with six points and nine rebounds, and fellow freshman Stauskas connected three times from long distance. He’s now 7 for 11 from 3-point range in his young career.
Robinson was coming off an 8-for-9 performance from the field in a win over IUPUI on Monday. He went 2 of 7 against Cleveland State but still finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
Cleveland State advanced to play Michigan after outlasting Bowling Green 79-73 in overtime Monday. Four Vikings played at least 40 minutes in that game, and they never really threatened the Wolverines.
Michigan has won all nine meetings against Cleveland State.