KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson took it as a shot to their pride.
Bill Self was just trying to win a game.
The Jayhawks’ coach turned to a zone defense Tuesday night, a rarity for a guy whose hallmark is a relentless man-to-man, and that slowed down Georgia enough to give fifth-ranked Kansas a 65-54 victory over the Bulldogs in the CBE Classic championship game.
“I didn’t think it was a hit (to their pride),” Self explained, “but you know, if you can’t guard their bigs and you can’t rebound out of man, we had to try to do something.”
On the other end, Mason led the way with 19 points, Jackson had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Devonte Graham contributed 14 points for the Jayhawks (4-1), who won their third consecutive in-season tournament title and second CBE Classic. They also won the event in 2012.
Jackson, one of the nation’s top freshmen, was voted MVP.
Kansas hopes it’s the beginning of a sweet ride at the Sprint Center this season. The Jayhawks face Davidson in the same building in a couple of weeks, then play the Big 12 Tournament there in March before the arena hosts an NCAA Tournament regional final, where they hope to earn a spot in the Final Four.
Yante Maten had 30 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (3-2), but they were done in by 3-for-18 shooting from the perimeter, equally lousy foul shooting and turnovers that led to easy runouts.
J.J. Frazier, who had been averaging 19 points per game, was held to two on 1-for-10 shooting.
“You have to make shots to win,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very good. Give Kansas’ defense credit for that. But we shot the ball so poorly the first three-quarters of the game, we didn’t score enough to get in position to win it.”
The zone defenses, which neither coach particularly enjoy, were a big reason for it. They slowed the game and turned it into a shooting contest.
“We haven’t really done it much so it was kind of new to us,” Jackson said, “but obviously it worked. For our pride a little bit, we really wanted to play man, but to win the game, we had to go zone.”
Kansas was a bit more efficient from the perimeter, slowly drawing away after trailing 20-19 with about 8 minutes to go, to forge a 35-25 lead at the break. The Bulldogs only made one of their final 16 field goal attempts, and their only scoring in the final 5 minutes came at the foul line.
The lead was still just 42-34 with 16 minutes to go when Mason drove for a basket, the first of eight straight points for the Jayhawks. Mason added another basket, Jackson solved the Bulldogs’ zone for a dunk and Graham and Dwight Coleby finished it off to give Kansas a comfortable cushion.
Georgia went more than 7 minutes without scoring as the game got away.
“We were prepared to play. We thought we could win the game. We’re disappointed we didn’t win,” Fox said. “We didn’t have enough guys chip in, and for us to win, we have to have more guys contribute.”
The Jayhawks’ post players were virtually non-existent. Landen Lucas never took a shot before fouling out in 10 minutes, Udoka Abuika played only 5 minutes and never took a shot, and Carlton Bragg Jr. finished 1 for 3 from the floor while gathering just one rebound in 10 minutes.
“They’re just not playing very well and not playing very smart and not contributing,” Self said. “They are good kids and they want to do well, but for whatever reason they have really struggled.”
Georgia earned a split in the CBE Classic, and losing to Kansas doesn’t hurt its NCAA Tournament resume. The Bulldogs showed in their win over George Washington that they can be competitive.
Kansas has already proven it can score this season. On Tuesday night, the Jayhawks proved they can play a little defense, too, even if it meant ditching Self’s preferred man-to-man.
Georgia begins a five-game homestand against Gardner-Webb on Friday night.
Kansas plays UNC-Asheville on Friday night in its second game at Allen Fieldhouse this season.