Winning Team: Kentucky Wildcats: 69, Losing Team: Michigan State Spartans: 48
Several Cats fans were in attendance for the first game of the annual Champions Classic held at the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. This was the first trip down to New York this season for the Wildcats; Coach Calipari and the Wildcats are set to face off against Hofstra University on December 11th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. After recent wins against Stephen F. Austin and Canisius to start the season, the Kentucky Wildcats had a tough matchup ahead of them against Coach Izzo and the thirteenth ranked Spartans.
Although this was UK’s third game in the past week, Coach Calipari and company failed to disappoint. Returning sophomore Isaiah Briscoe scored twenty-one points alongside six rebounds. Freshman De’Aaron Fox scored twelve points to complement his four rebounds and five assists. Shooting guard Malik Monk stole the show, and expressed his dominance to the Cats faithful by scoring twenty-three points, grabbing six rebounds, and draining seven three-pointers. As a whole, the Wildcats had an on-court shooting percentage of 38.30%, collected thirty-eight rebounds, thirteen assists, and sixty-nine points.
After a loss in the final seconds to a strong Arizona team led by coach Sean Miller, this game against Kentucky was an opportunity for this young and inexperienced Michigan State team to bounce back. However, Coach Izzo and his Spartans failed to impress at MSG. In this double figure loss to a dominant Kentucky team, the Spartans accumulated twenty turnovers to drop to 0-2 in the early stages of the 2016-2017 NCAA Season. On the score sheet, the Spartans were held without any double-digit scorers, and shot 32.30% from the field.
Without question, 6 ft. 3 in shooting guard Malik Monk helped show the Wildcats, and their fans how he hopes to play this season. Although the Arkansas native has been rather inconsistent the first two games of this season, where he only shot twenty-five percent from behind the arc, the former five-star prospect fully emerged tonight! Monk scored twenty-three points, where he shot 58.3 % from deep. If Malik continues to experience success, as he did against Michigan State, the Cats will be in great shape to achieve yet another victorious season.
The Kentucky Wildcats were able to take advantage of the poor play of Michigan State’s starting five. In the second half of the game, UK outscored Michigan State by thirteen. Spartans small forward Miles Bridges failed to impress, after registering only six points while shooting 2 for 11 from the field. The fast, upbeat tempo of the game resulted in Michigan State turning the ball over twenty times. Michigan State had difficulty on the free throw line, missing easy baskets.
2016 McDonald’s All American, Malik Monk, helped prove his athletic abilities to the entire country, hitting seven three pointers and scoring twenty-three points. The strong play of Monk helped lead the Wildcats to their third victory of the season. Hopefully the versatile shooting guard can continue his impressive play throughout the course of the season.
The Flint Michigan native, Myles Bridges failed to impress during this crucial game for the Spartans. The 6 ft. 7 in forward tallied nine turnovers, and only scored six points. After a twenty-one point performance against Arizona to start the season, this was discouraging for the Spartans and their fans to see. Coach Izzo and the Spartans have their work cut out for them, after a tough start to the season.
Combined, the Wildcats and Spartans registered thirty-four turnovers. For two powerhouse programs, it is essential that the basketball is better taken care of. Over the course of the season, this is something that both of these programs will have to work on.
To conclude, this was a well-earned victory for the Wildcats. Although the Wildcats won the first game of the Champions Classic by double digits, there is still plenty of work to be done, to reach the level that is expected of this prestigious program. Kentucky will be back at it this upcoming Sunday night in front of the home fans at Rupp Arena against Duquesne. Go Cats!
University of Kentucky