Kansas claims Orlando Classic title with win over Michigan State

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Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

Kansas’ win over Michigan State in the Orlando Classic Championship game was the Jayhawks fifth win over the Spartans.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Perry Ellis had a game-high 17 points as the No. 11 ranked Kansas Jayhawks defeated the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans 61-56 in the championship game of the Orlando Classic on Sunday at the HP Field House.

Kansas trailed 36-35 at halftime, but the Jayhawks used momentum they gained when Svi Mykhailiuk hit a buzzer-beater to make it a one-point game at halftime and started the second half on a 12-6 run to take a 47-42 lead with 10:37 remaining in the game.

“It got a lot of our guys pumped up going into the locker room,” said Ellis of the momentum swing. “So I think it really was a momentum push for us.”

The Jayhawks then continued to respond to any type of run the Spartans were able to put together.

Michigan State was outscored 26-20 in the second half and could never quite regain the momentum they had early in the first half.

“We came out and just didn’t have the same energy Kansas had and they won…” said Spartans’ forward Denzel Valentine. “They just had the momentum in the second half and we couldn’t regain it.”

Both teams relied heavily on their starters as Kansas and Michigan State had a combined 19 points off the bench with the Jayhawks having 12 of those.

Transition defense was a big key in Kansas’ win, as the Jayhawks limited the Spartans to six fast break points and forced Michigan State to miss a lot of layups.

“We made some athletic plays in transition defense when they had us beat,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self after the game. “And the biggest thing I liked is that I thought we fouled a couple of times late in the clock but I thought we defended the entire shot clock and rebounded the ball pretty well.”

Ellis was awarded the Orlando Classic MVP after the game. The junior forward had a combined 58 points and 27 rebounds during the three games of the tournament. Ellis did however struggle from the free throw line on Sunday, as he shot 3-7 from the charity stripe.

“He was consistent, he averaged 19 and 10 or 19 and 9 for three games,” said Self of Ellis’ MVP performance. “Today he could have had a big game and he didn’t make his free throws and then when he was on a roll we had to sub for him in the first half because of fouls,

“But I thought he played very, very well and very aggressively really going after the ball.”

The Jayhawks also got a double-double from Frank Mason III, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Spartans. That was the sophomore guard’s first double-digit rebound game since high school

The win brings Kansas’ record for the season to 5-1 and cuts Michigan State’s lead in the all-time series to 6-5.

“Winning the tournament is okay and it’s a big deal,” said Self of the win. “But beating a quality team is more important to me than actually winning the tournament because we needed to beat a quality team based on a couple of weeks ago.”

Now the Jayhawks will prepare for another quality opponent when they take on the Florida Gators on Friday, Dec. 5 in Gainesville.