Kansas vs. Michigan State: Young Players Who Shined in Early-Season Spectacle
There are young stars aplenty on both No. 7 Kansas and No. 14 Michigan State's rosters, and they made themselves relevant on a huge stage Tuesday night in the State Farm Champions Classic.
In a back-and-forth game, the Spartans survived a last-second shot and won their first game of the season, 67-64.
Tom Izzo and Bill Self each lost a decent amount of firepower and top talent after last season, and they've done a fine job as usual of replacing those players with some of the best young future-NBAers in the nation.
While the most experienced players took over such as Kansas standouts Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey, as well as Michigan State's Keith Appling, the youngsters certainly left their mark on this early-season affair in the Georgia Dome.
Let's see which young Spartans and Jayhawks had their coming-out parties Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Gary Harris, Freshman Guard, Michigan State
A top 25 recruit nationally according to Yahoo! Sports, Gary Harris was expected to be a major component to this Spartans team that lost many starters from a season ago.
He proved that against the Jayhawks, as the shooting guard went 7-for-13 from the field and finished with 18 points. Harris looked nothing like a freshman in this one, giving the Spartans a much-needed boost that they'll certainly rely on from here on out.
Harris is a dangerous scorer and that's just what the Spartans needed in this one. He was a major cog in their late run to fly past the Jayhawks and notch a big early-season victory.
Ben McLemore, RS Freshman Guard, Kansas
Though he came out of high school as a highly-touted recruit that could play immediately, shooting guard Ben McLemore was redshirted last season due to the Jayhawks' immense depth in the backcourt.
That move turned out to be a brilliant one for their depleted guard position. Star guard Elijah Johnson doesn't seem unwilling to pass the ball to McLemore, and he seemed very fluid in the offense while displaying some unique chemistry with Johnson.
McLemore finished with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including a big and-one late that brought the Jayhawks back in the game with just more than a minute left.
The Jayhawks will struggle to replace Tyshawn Taylor after his epic season in 2011-12, but an upcoming big year from McLemore may prove to be the difference. If he can learn how to attack off-the-dribble like Johnson, the Jayhawks could become unstoppable.
Branden Dawson, Sophomore Guard, Michigan
It'll take a team effort to replace hustlers like Draymond Green, and Branden Dawson will be a major component of the tough post-Green era transition.
Dawson is listed as a guard but is more of a swing player, using his 6'6", 230-pound frame to play as a hybrid guard-forward.
He picked up some tough buckets in this game, finishing with 12 points and being very efficient with a 5-for-6 shooting performance.
With the Spartans starting three guards and two centers on paper, it's important that Dawson embraces his role as a hybrid and picks up points in many different ways to create a balance with the backcourt.
Dawson's one year of experience will help him do that efficiently.
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