It was billed as two titans. #1 Kentucky with seven future NBA first round picks and #2 Michigan State led by two NBA first round players who turned their backs on the millions the NBA offered to return for another season of college basketball. It was old school vs. new school. Some said good vs. evil and it lived up to the billing.
The young Wildcats were visibly frustrated by the older Spartans early. UK shot an abysmal 40% in the first half and had nine turnovers. MSU had the 14 point halftime lead 46-32, but it should have been much bigger. The Spartans left to many opportunities on the floor as they headed to the locker room at the half.
In the second half the talented Wildcats found their proverbial sea legs. Gary Harris who owned the first half struggled for most of the second half. He had 15 at the half and finished with 20. At the 4:48 point of the second half the Wildcats finally tied the game and they did it from the charity stripe. Before Kentucky nailed two free throws by Julius Randle, the Cats were only shooting 50% from the line.
That was as close as it would get. Appling nailed a three and Harris got a steal and a lay in to put the Spartans up 71-66 with 4:18 remaining as the Spartans responded to UK tying the tilt. The Spartans held on from that point for a 78-72 victory.
There is no doubt that this Kentucky team will be better, a lot better in March. That is scary because what they are lacking is experience and that will come over a long season.
That experience would NOT get them a win on this night. In the Champions Classic the Spartans came out with not only a win, but what is for sure going to be a #1 ranking. Don’t get content, I wouldn’t be shocked if these two teams find themselves in a national title game on April 7, 2014.
UK head coach John Cailpari addressed the chance of these two playing again this season. “I hope we do because that means it will be in April.”
A stunning stat was the fact that MSU was outrebounded 44-32. A shocked Calipari said, “I would like to know the last time a Michigan State team was outrebounded like that?” Izzo addressed it. “I think they got the best of us in what we do well and we beat them with what they do well.”
Izzo exclaimed after the game, “Our program needed a program win.” He got it.
Keith Appling almost channeled Max Bullough from after the UM win. He said, “We haven’t accomplished anything yet.” Gary Harris added, “He’s right. We haven’t won a Big Ten title or a national title.” Harris added, “We want to be number one in April.”
Calipari summed up the Spartans simply. “Tom is a great coach, they played well.” Izzo said something that should instill fear in the rest of the nation. In possession of the new #1 ranking Izzo said, “Don’t think we are not going to get a lot better.”