Michigan State’s abysmal shooting tanks Spartans against Kentucky


NEW YORK — Much is always made of Kentucky’s roster going into every season, as the cast is essentially a revolving door of future NBA talent.

Photo: Dave Wasinger / Lansing State Journal
Photo: Dave Wasinger / Lansing State Journal

While several freshmen once again comprise the bulk of the rotation in Lexington this year, the difference is that the current crop is not only worthy of their hype, they just might win a championship while they are at it.

Behind 23 points from Malik Monk and a 12-point, six-assist effort from the steady hand of point guard De’Aaron Fox, the second-ranked Wildcats wasted little time in disposing of Michigan State, obliterating the Spartans by the final of 69-48 in the first game of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

“I was just preparing with Coach Cal and (assistant coach) Kenny Payne,” Monk said of his lasting impression, which included seven three-point field goals, the only Kentucky player to connect from beyond the arc. “He was telling me to get lower, stay in tune with my shot, and that’s what happened.”

Kentucky (3-0) also got 21 points from sophomore Isaiah Briscoe in the winning effort, and stymied Michigan State defensively in such a way that they did not yield a double-figure scorer. The Spartans (0-2) also committed 20 turnovers, nine of them by highly touted freshman Miles Bridges, while shooting a paltry 5-of-26 from beyond the 3-point line.

“I’m a little embarrassed,” a brutally honest Tom Izzo stated. “I thought we competed defensively for the most part, but we didn’t do anything offensively. We looked like a team that was an AAU team. We just went one-on-one, didn’t move the ball, and got frustrated. I think some of it was that we’re a little fatigued, and I think John did a hell of a job.”

To their credit, Michigan State managed to remain within striking distance through the first half, trailing by just eight points at the intermission. But after returning from the locker room, Kentucky put the clamps on, limiting the Spartans to just nine made field goals in 31 attempts, allowing just 22 points and forcing Bridges into a 2-for-11 effort for the night.

“The way we played, we just made it really difficult for him to just play basketball,” John Calipari said of defending Bridges, and to a lesser extent, the entire Michigan State team. “Tom’s a great coach, and what he said after (the game) to me was, ‘you guys defended better than us,’ and that’s what it was. Our offense shot 38 percent. We shot 38 percent and won.”

Kentucky returns to Rupp Arena Sunday, where they will host Duquesne as part of the Bluegrass Showcase, while Michigan State welcomes Mississippi Valley State and Florida Gulf Coast to the Breslin Center before journeying to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis.

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