INDIANAPOLIS — Kentucky coach John Calipari made one simple adjustment to his game plan Tuesday night.
He scrapped the zone.
The Wildcats didn’t need it. Instead, a fierce man-to-man defense got No. 5 Kansas out of sync, and No. 1 Kentucky ran away with its most impressive win of the season — a 72-40 victory in the Champions Classic.
“We kind of bum-rushed them a little bit, and every time they looked there were more tanks coming over the hill,” Calipari said. “It wasn’t substitutes, it was reinforcements. It kind of gets to you a little bit.”
It also elicited exactly the kind of reaction Calipari wanted from his team.
After Kentucky (3-0) won its first two games by 40 and 19 points, it dominated Kansas despite having only two players reach double figures. Dakari Johnson had 11 points, Andrew Harrison had 10, and Willie Cauley-Stein finished with seven points and 10 rebounds.
But the Wildcats didn’t need big-time scorers Tuesday.
The Jayhawks (1-1) made only 11 baskets — eight in the first half, three in the second. They shot just 19.6 percent from the field and were 3 of 15 on 3-pointers. Kansas finished with its lowest point total since Bill Self took over as coach in 2003-04, easily falling below the 49-point effort against Arizona in November 2005, and barely avoided becoming the first Kansas team to finish with fewer than 40 points since a 37-point effort against Oklahoma State in February 1962.
Wayne Selden Jr. led the Jayhawks with nine points. Cliff Alexander finished with eight.
“We never once did anything that resembled a team offense at all, and I hope they were the primary reason why,” Self said after sipping a glass of water and joking that he needed a stronger drink to help ease the pain. “I knew that we haven’t practiced well or done some things real well, but I didn’t think it would be like this. No matter how bad we shot it in the first half we actually proved that we could shoot it a heck of a lot worse in the second.”
Kentucky took advantage of Kansas’ errant shots and never let up.
The Wildcats jumped to a 35-17 lead with 3:06 left in the first half, then allowed Kansas to close within 38-28 at the half. Kentucky then started the second half with six straight points, didn’t allow a basket for almost six minutes, then extended the lead to 64-36 and continued pulling away.
Kansas finally hit the 40-point mark when Perry Ellis made two free throws with 2:53 left.
“They (Kentucky) are pretty good for this early in the season,” said Self, who beat Calipari’s Memphis team in the 2008 national title game. “One thing I would say that would be challenging for them, and this is a compliment to them, right now they’re so far ahead where other people are, but other teams have a tendency to get better, too, and there will be teams out there who can challenge them. Whether they can beat them or not, I don’t know.”
■ Duke 81, Michigan State 71 — Jahlil Okafor spent last year’s Champions Classic trying to pick a school. He spent Tuesday night methodically picking apart one of America’s perennial powers.
Quinn Cook scored 19 points, but Okafor manhandled the post, finishing with 17 points and five rebounds to lead No. 4 Duke past No. 19 Michigan State.
“I thought I played decent, but as a team we played great,” Okafor said after the Blue Devils’ third straight double-digit victory. “It was a really big win for us. They gave us a lot of challenges.”
Okafor overcame most of them in his first big NBA audition.
Against the defending Big Ten tournament champs, the 6-foot-11-inch freshman who is already considered a lottery pick showed everyone he can post up, drive to the basket, spin away from defenders, back them down and draw fouls. He blocked two shots, had two steals and finished 8 of 10 from the field. Okafor even wound up surviving foul trouble thanks to his teammates’ contributions.
Cook, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones put the game away with a 13-3 run that extended Duke’s 51-48 lead to 64-51 with 7:58 left in the game. Michigan State never led, and Duke (3-0) has trailed for just 18 seconds this reason.
The biggest reason is the presence of Okafor.
“I’ve been watching him since the eighth grade,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “He had three or four baskets in a row early and only had three or four or five after that. I wasn’t disappointed in that, I was just impressed with him.”
Michigan State (1-1) was led by Branden Dawson with 18 points and nine rebounds. Travis Trice added 15 points, not nearly enough in the first game of one of the early season’s premier events.
Duke looked at home on the Indiana Pacers’ home floor, making their first seven shots and pulling out to a 14-9 lead. They extended the margin to 27-17 with 8:51 left in the first half.
The Spartans spent the rest of the night playing catch-up, finally getting as close as 51-48 with 13:54 left before Duke pulled away.