For the third straight year, Kentucky is victorious in the Champions Classic. The Wildcats physically overwhelmed Michigan State at both ends of the court from the opening tip-off on their way to a 69-48 win at Madison Square Garden.
Kentucky set the tone in this game on the defensive end. The Wildcats defense forced Michigan State into 20 turnovers and made them pay in transition. John Calipari’s starting backcourt did most of the damage, as De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaiah Briscoe combined for 56 points in the win.
Michigan State never found a rhythm offensively. The Spartans, now 0-2, shot just 32.3 percent from the floor and made only 5-of-26 attempts from three-point range. Sophomore center Kenny Goins was a bright spot in the loss for MSU, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds, and three blocks. Touted freshman Miles Bridges struggled, ending the game with six points, 12 rebounds, and nine turnovers on 2-of-11 shooting.
Here’s what we learned in Kentucky’s win:
Malik Monk can fill it up in a hurry.
Malik Monk hitting everything. Four first half 3 pointers pic.twitter.com/PtSCuIW5Jk— Full Court Prez (@fullcourtprez) November 16, 2016
Malik Monk entered college with a reputation as a natural-born scorer, and he showed why against Michigan State. Monk led Kentucky with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting from three-point range to pace the Wildcats in the win.
Monk opened the first half with four three-pointers to get Kentucky out to an eight-point advantage at the break. Monk was thought to be a streaky shooter entering college, but much of that had to do with the shot selection because of the offensive burden he carried in high school. His release sure looked good against the Spartans. That's great news for a UK team that lost its best shooter from last year in Jamal Murray.
Isaiah Briscoe is taking another step forward.
The sophomore guard entered the game as Kentucky's leading scorer, and he looked great again on Tuesday. Briscoe finished with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, providing the Wildcats with a physical slasher to complement Monk's shooting ability.
Briscoe had an uneven freshman season as a five-star recruit, and opted to return to college after flirting with the NBA draft. It looks like a wise decision. Briscoe seems primed to follow in Tyler Ulis's footsteps as Kentucky's sophomore leader. You know John Calipari is happy he decided to stick around.
Michigan State misses Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes.
This is one of the youngest teams Tom Izzo has had, led by one of his greatest recruiting hauls ever. Izzo might still get Michigan State in gear before conference play starts, but it's clear this is going to be a long process without veterans like Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, and Matt Costello around.
Michigan State looks as if it has a major weakness shooting the basketball after being one of the best shooting teams in the country last year. The Spartans made only 20 percent of their 26 three-point attempts on the night. For Michigan State to find its stride, it's going to have to stretch out opposing defenses by hitting threes.