NEW YORK (AP) – One of the Kentucky freshmen stepped up big from the outside while the rest of the Wildcats took care of things with defense.
Malik Monk’s 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting from 3-point range and the second-ranked Wildcats’ defense that held No. 13 Michigan State to 32.8 percent shooting combined for a 69-48 victory Tuesday night in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.
“These guys took some pride defensively here,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Michigan State they run great stuff. They iso and do things that forced us to prepare beyond where we are.”
The Wildcats (3-0) averaged 90 points in their first two games but this time it was defense that did it as the Spartans (0-2) shot 32.8 percent from the field (20 of 61) including 5 for 26 (19.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
Relying on another talented freshman class, Kentucky was able to up the tempo enough and keep the tenacious defense going that the Spartans committed 20 turnovers which the Wildcats turned into 24 points.
Freshman De’Aaron Fox added 12 points for Kentucky, which snapped Michigan State’s two-game winning streak in the series that the Wildcats lead 13-11.
“We knew they were going pack it in. I just had to be prepared,” Monk said. “They set me up well. I was just able to knock down the shot.”
Kenny Goins and Cassius Winston led the Spartans with nine points each. Freshman Miles Bridges was held to six points on 2-for-11 shooting but he grabbed 12 rebounds.
“We did a couple of things knowing that if he got going he would be a beast,” Calipari said of Bridges. “He had 12 rebounds, but the way we played, we just made it really difficult for him to just play basketball.”
Spartans coach Tom Izzo said, “I’m actually a little embarrassed. I felt like we competed defensively for the most part, we just didn’t do anything offensively. We looked like a team that was an AAU team, we just went 1-on-1 didn’t move the ball and got frustrated.”
The Spartans were coming off a 68-65 loss to No. 10 Arizona in Honolulu.
“I was very disappointed in the way we were kind of ‘deer in the headlights’ but you know you have four freshmen playing at Madison Square Garden and coming off the Hawaii trip, that was the way we played. We’ll get better.”
Kentucky led 34-26 at halftime and the Wildcats opened the big lead with a 16-7 run that made it 51-37 with 12:04 to play. Michigan State continued to struggle from the outside and the Wildcats led by as many as 23 points.
“It’s the same freshmen that played against Canisius and we were down with three minutes in the half,” Calipari said. “We’ve got a long way to go. This shows us what we’re capable of and now we have to build from this. You have to convince them that if we become a great defensive team.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats’ freshman class is as loaded with talent as any recruited by Calipari and this group has size. … Last season the Wildcats had trouble setting any kind of presence inside but with freshmen Ban Adebayo and Wenyen Gilbert grabbing 11 rebounds between them. Kentucky was able to stay on the glass with the Spartans only being outrebounded 44-40.
Michigan State: The Spartans played in Honolulu on Friday and then headed across the country for this game. Michigan State will travel 13,600 miles by Nov. 29 and in a 21-day span they will face at least three Top 15 opponents. … Michigan State won’t be at full strength for a while as they wait for Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter to return from injuries.
Monk was the only Wildcat to make a 3-pointer. The rest of the team was 0 for 7. Nobody on Michigan State made more than one 3.
“You have to give Monk credit he was 3 for 13 going in and hit some big 3s early, unguarded on the break,” Izzo said.
Kentucky was 16 of 20 at the free throw line while the Spartans were 3 of 9.
In the row behind the Kentucky bench were Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Brown who was Calipari boss at Kansas and Bruiser Flint, the coach who succeeded Calipari at Massachusetts. Also sitting in a good seat was New York Knicks guard Carmelo Anthony. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski went over and gave Anthony a big hug before the second game. The two were part of the last Olympic gold medals for the U.S.
Kentucky: The Wildcats return to Rupp Arena to face Duquesne on Sunday.
Michigan State: The Spartans finally stop traveling to go home and play Mississippi Valley State on Friday.