Rushed Reactions: #2 Kentucky 69, #13 Michigan State 48

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 15th, 2016

RTC’s Brian Otskey (@botskey) and Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) are providing on-site coverage of the Champions Classic this evening.

Three Key Takeaways.

Malik Monk (USA Today Images)

Malik Monk (USA Today Images)

  1. Kentucky’s defensive ceiling is very high this season. John Calipari has had plenty of elite teams over the years but it was typically the offensive prowess of his players that grabbed the headlines. This group of Wildcats is long and athletic across the board, and Calipari seems truly energized about coaching this team and watching it grow. After the game he complimented his players for all their hard work and unselfishness, saying how excited he is to come to the gym every day and work with them.
  2. Michigan State needs to find its offense. Sparty’s 0-2 start to the season is not cause for concern for Tom Izzo, who noted after the game that he has lost a bunch of games in the non-conference and still made seven Final Fours over the years. Still, an average of 55.5 points per game against top competition in Arizona and Kentucky is not going to get the job done. Izzo is happy with his defense, which held both sets of Wildcats to only 38 percent shooting, but he added that the Spartans need to find an offensive spark somewhere. Miles Bridges can’t do it all by himself, so he needs to look to Matt McQuaid and Eron Harris for complementary scoring. Michigan State’s November schedule will provide ample opportunities for growth, as trips to the Battle 4 Atlantis and Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke still loom before the calendar flips to December.
  3. This game was a snoozer. Let’s be honest here. Given the fair amount of hype that this annual event generates, everyone in the building expected better. One could argue that the travel hangover for Michigan State — after playing a hard-fought game against Arizona in Honolulu on Friday night — played a major role, but the Spartans just had nothing in the tank offensively. Kentucky’s defense certainly played a part in that, but it was also clear that the Wildcats were a step quicker than the Spartans all night.

Player of the Game.  Malik Monk, Kentucky. Monk dazzled the Garden crowd on this Tuesday night, pouring in 23 total points, with 21 of them coming from beyond the three-point arc. Monk played an outstanding defensive game as well, hounding Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid for most of the game. McQuaid made only one of his six shot attempts on the evening.


Tom Izzo Couldn't Find Answers to Stop Kentucky's Super Freshman Corps (USA Today Images)

Tom Izzo Couldn’t Find Answers to Stop Kentucky’s Super Freshman Corps (USA Today Images)

  • “We looked like a team that was an AAU team. Just went one-on-one, didn’t move the ball, got frustrated.” – Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
  • “He had an unbelievable shootaround today.” — Kentucky head coach John Calipari, on Malik Monk’s practice translating into a great in-game performance.
  • “These freshmen aren’t ordinary freshmen.” — Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, on his young and incredibly talented teammates.  

Sights and Sounds.  A fairly large crowd was on hand for tonight’s first game but with Duke and Kansas set to play in the late game, empty seats were still notable. That said, Big Blue Nation was out in full force to cheer on their Wildcats.

What’s Next. After two incredibly difficult games on neutral floors to open the season, Michigan State returns to East Lansing for its home opener on Friday night against Mississippi Valley State. Kentucky will return home to Rupp Arena for a Sunday evening matchup with Duquesne.

Brian Otskey (269 Posts)

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