ATLANTA -- Junior guard Keith Appling scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to help No. 14 Michigan State earn a 67-64 comeback victory over No. 7 Kansas, which suffered its first loss of the season, in the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome, site of the 2013 NCAA Final Four.
Appling made 5 of 7 field goals in the second half, including both three-point attempts, as the Spartans earned their first victory of the season. He also made all four of his free throws in the game.
Two key plays by Appling helped to push Michigan State (1-1) over the top. Kansas (1-1) left him wide open for a 3-pointer with 1:33 left in regulation to put the Spartans on top 65-61. Then with the Spartans clinging to a 65-64 lead and the shot clock almost expired, he drove to the basket and made a lay-up with 13.8 seconds left, putting Michigan State on top 67-64.
Kansas guard Travis Releford's 3-point try to tie the game failed as time expired.
Trailing for almost the entire second half, the Spartans took the lead for good at 60-59 with 2:50 remaining on Derrick Nix's lone free throw.
Garry Harris had 18 for Michigan State. For Kansas, Elijah Johnson led the way with 16 points. Freshman Ben McLemore led the way with 14 points.
Through much of the first half, neither team could pull away from the other, with Kansas staking a 35-32 lead at halftime.
With 4:58 left in the half, Kansas completed an 8-2 run, with forward Justin Wesley contributing four of those points, to earn a 33-28 lead, the largest of the first 20 minutes for either team.
Both teams shot the ball well, with Kansas making 15-of-29 field goals (51.7 percent) and Michigan State shooting 13-of-25 (52 percent). Both teams were even in rebounding at 13 apiece.
Johnson and McLemore led the Jayhawks in the first half with seven points apiece. The Spartans mostly held Jayhawks senior 7-footer Jeff Withey in check. Withey, who led Kansas with 17 points in its season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State, was held to four in the half.
Harris, a 6-4 freshman, led Michigan State in scoring at halftime with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field. Sophomore forward Alex Gauna made all three of his attempts from the field to finish with six points at the break while 6-9 center Nix also contributed six.
NOTES: Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who played for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, was in attendance. ... Michigan State entered the game leading Kansas in the schools' series, 5-4. The first game was played in 1960. ... Michigan State entered the game 2-0 at the Georgia Dome, defeating Gonzaga and Temple at the 2001 NCAA Tournament South Regional Final.