Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) reacts after guard Keith Appling (11) makes a jump shot against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half of the 2012 Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome. Michigan State wins 67-64.(Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE)
ATLANTA - Almost instantly, it was clear this would be a different kind of night for Michigan State.
No early jitters, leading to early mistakes, leading to a large early deficit. The Spartans came to play with much more conviction tonight on this continent than they did Friday in Europe.
And they got a huge win to balance a disappointing loss in the season opener. No. 21 MSU came back late to upset No. 7 Kansas, 67-64, in the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome.
It was a rewarding response for the Spartans, four days after falling behind by 16 points, coming back but ultimately falling, 66-62, to Connecticut at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Keith Appling led MSU with 19 points - including a critical three-pointer and acrobatic layup in the waning moments to deliver victory. Freshman Gary Harris scored 18 for the Spartans.
Appling's layup made it 67-64 with 13 seconds left, then Travis Releford missed a tying three-point try at the horn.
The Spartans led for much of the first half, but Kansas took a 35-32 lead into the break.
The lead got as high as seven for the Jayhawks, 45-38 on a Naadir Tharpe three-pointer.
But the Spartans went on a 16-8 run over the next minutes to take their first lead since it was 26-25. It was capped by an Appling three-pointer.
Kansas then scored six straight, but two straight baskets from Harris and two free throws from Derrick Nix gave MSU the lead back.
Contact Joe Rexrode: 313-222-2625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @joerexrode. Check out his MSU blog at freep.com/heyjoe.