November 21, 2019
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Michigan State’s reign at No. 1 a short one with mistake-filled loss to No. 2 Kentucky


Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
Published 7:34 a.m. ET Nov. 6, 2019 |Updated 9:06 a.m. ET Nov. 6, 2019

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LSJ columnist Graham Couch, Freep beat writer Chris Solari and Freep columnist Shawn Windsor break down MSU’s Champions Classic loss.
Graham Couch, Chris Solari and Shawn Windsor, Lansing State Journal

NEW YORK —Michigan State basketball coachTom Izzo glanced at the stat sheet and shredded it in his hands.

It was not smashing a game tape with a sledgehammer. This was a result of poor lighting and tiny type on the page. But his frustration and fury in the bowels of Madison Square Garden showed with each tear.

The strips of paper told only some of the story from Tuesday night’s Champions Classic marquee game.

The 23 fouls. The 21 missed 3-pointers. The 16 turnovers that led to 21 points the other way.

The final score: No. 2 Kentucky 69, No. 1 Michigan State 62.

Enough Izzo admitted, “I’m not in a good mood.”

“No. 1 on the list is me and my staff gotta do a much better job,” Izzo said. “There were a lot of plays that we screwed up, one guy screwed them up — that’s our fault. So before I say anything else about the players, me and my staff better improve a lot within the next week. There are gonna be some long nights in that building.”

OPINION: Michigan State wasn’t worthy of No. 1 ranking. Not yet, anyway

MSU entered as the preseason favorite to win the national title, both by the pollsters and Las Vegas oddsmakers. Kentucky came in a little older than in past years, but with its annual haul of 5-star freshmen.

And one of them, freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, outplayed reigning Big Ten player of the year and preseason consensus All-American Cassius Winston in a game the Spartans led for just 38 seconds — by two points.

It was Maxey’s deep 3-pointer over Aaron Henry with a minute remaining in the game that put MSU away for good. Kyle Ahrens missed a good look from behind the arc for the Spartans on the ensuing possession, a theme throughout the night. They went just 5 of 26 from 3-point range.

“I gotta hit some more shots,” said Winston, who went 1 of 7 from deep. “I had some open looks that I need to knock down.”

There were spurts when the Wildcats looked ready to put away MSU, particularly in the first half when all five starters and reserve Malik Hall went to the bench in foul trouble. Twice Kentucky built 11-point leads, going into halftime up 34-24, but then the Spartans would muster the moxie they showed last season, in large part because of the poise and persistence of Winston.

The senior finished with 21 points on 5 of 12 shooting, despite playing with four fouls down the stretch and wearing down from the physical, long-armed Wildcat defenders.

MSU committed 23 fouls in the game. Kentucky finished 25 of 32 from the free-throw line. Maxey led Kentucky with 26 points on 7 of 12 shooting, and the 6-3 rookie guard went 9 of 10 at the line.

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csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

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