Throwback: Kuzma and Ingram's Overtime Duel
When Kyle Kuzma held a recent Q&A session with his Twitter followers, one answer brought back memories of a battle between future Lakers forwards.
Asked for the best player he faced in college, Kuzma replied with two letters.
Back on Dec. 19, 2015, Kuzma’s Utah Utes faced off against Brandon Ingram and the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils in a wild contest at Madison Square Garden.
Both players cooked, with Kuzma scoring a team-high 21 points, while Ingram packaged together 15 points, three steals and three blocks.
They also flashed the skill sets that would soon make them valuable pieces of the Lakers’ young core.
The future teammates guarded each other all night long, and Ingram seized the immediate advantage.
Using that 7-foot-3 wingspan that had NBA scouts drooling, he stifled Kuzma with a swipe and a swat in the first half.
Ingram also made his impact offensively, draining an and-1 corner 3-pointer.
(This is an area that the Lakers saw him thrive in this past season, as he shot 39.0 percent from deep and ranked among the NBA’s 76th percentile on spot-up shots with 1.09 points per possession).
But Kuzma started reaching into his bag at the end of the half.
After a pick-and-roll left and of Duke’s guards defending him, the sophomore immediately posted up and scored thanks to a seven-inch height advantage.
(Kuzma was already excellent on post-ups as a rookie. His 1.01 ppp on such possessions was among the NBA’s 85th percentile).
Then he caught Ingram for a bucket, driving to the rack and hitting him with a subtle fake before connecting on his patented hook shot.
(Kuz hit all kinds of hooks for the Lakers, making 56.6 percent of those shots, which ranked third in the league).
And while Utah used Kuzma as a more traditional power forward than his ball-handling, 3-point-bombarding role with the Lakers, he was so hot in the second half that the Utes drew him up a jumper on an out-of-bounds play.
Kuzma — who scored 13 consecutive points for Utah in the second half — got enough separation from Ingram on a screen to strike from just inside the 3-point arc.
But Ingram had a couple of game-changing plays left for the Blue Devils.
Midway through the second half, he jumped a pass, strode the length of the court and finished with a textbook Eurostep into a dunk.
That bucket tied the game up and neither team could find separation, sending it to overtime.
There, Ingram got physical with his future teammate, driving to the basket, absorbing contact on two hits and finishing at the rim for an and-1.
(It’s the type of body-to-body basket that Ingram — already adept at scoring near the rim thanks to his length — can thrive off in the NBA if he continues to add strength to his wiry frame.)
While B.I. was the last to score, Kuz was the one to walk away victorious.
Behind his electric scoring, the Utes won in overtime, 77-75, defeating Duke for the first time in 45 years.