Reaction: Spartans Beat Kentucky


That’s the reaction every single person should have said after No. 2 ranked Michigan State defeated No. 1 ranked Kentucky, 78-74 Tuesday night.

The “wow” was not because the Spartans shocked the world by beating the top-ranked team in the nation. They were favored by three and a half points.

It was for the performance and promise that the two teams showed Tuesday in Chicago.

The Spartans got off to a fast start, going on a 10-0 run to start the game. But the Wildcats battled throughout the first half to keep the game within 12 at the half.

Gary Harris had a strong first half scoring 15 of his 20 points.

The second half was much more even. Kentucky took advantage of Matt Costello and Adreian Payne’s foul trouble taking control of the boards to keep them in the game. The Wildcats pulled within two in the second half, but never led in the game.

Freshman forward Julius Randle led Kentucky with 27 points to go along with 13 rebounds and was the biggest beneficiary of MSU’s foul trouble in the post.

This foul trouble in the post exposed the problems Michigan State has in  that area. Gavin Schilling was fairly ineffective in the very limited time he was on the court. Alex Gauna didn’t show much either against the much bigger Kentucky front court. He scored four points and grabbed one rebound in his 13 minutes on the floor.

One other note from the game is the impact of the new hand-checking rules. The referees called the game tight for both teams which led to a fairly choppy game. There were a total of 46 fouls called in the game. It will be interesting to see as the season progresses if referees will call fewer fouls or if teams will adjust to the stricter rules.

The takeaway is that the Spartans are the best team in the nation right now with room to improve. With their experience and fast pace, they were able to overwhelm and outrun the Wildcats for much of the game.

But this Wildcats team is going to be good.

Kentucky looked like a team with seven freshmen on their roster last night. They have a disgusting amount of raw talent and, barring injuries, come March and April this is going to be a very dangerous team.

Maybe John Calipari was right. Maybe it was “unfair” for his team to have to play a seasoned Michigan State team this early in the year. Either way, the Spartans are on top of the college basketball rankings now, and there’s no sign they will be giving up that spot any time soon.


Andrew Hayes is the host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.

Photo: Michigan State Athletics