In their first real test of the season the Kentucky Wildcats faced off against Michigan State Spartans in Madison Square Garden. The Spartans already had one true early season test four days ago when they fell to the Arizona Wildcats 65-63. As always, the anticipation of how these young Cats would perform against a physical team who was upset about the outcome of their last game was high.
Kentucky handled everything well, and handled Michigan State 69-48.
Malik Monk showed no signs of freshman fright at all on the big stage. He ended his night with 23 points on 8 of 17 shooting from the field. He was a sizzling 7 for 12 from three-point line.
It’s almost as if Monk was quietly on fire. He hit two consecutive three’s from the right wing. The next thing you know he was splashing one from the left wing and it was on after that. He was in the flow. He missed a three that rattled out, but you could still tell that he was locked in.
He also missed a “heat check” type of three where he let it rip just because he was so locked in. Every shooter that’s on a roll has some of those. There was also the tough jumper he hit going to his left where he was partially behind the backboard.
— Vinny Hardy (@VinnyHardy) November 16, 2016
Kentucky had a 26-14 lead in the first half and appeared poised to blow things open from the jump. Michigan State was able to get back in the game to a degree and the Cats had to settle for a 34-26 lead after the first 20 minutes.
They outscored the Spartans 35-22 in the second half to cruise to a comfortable win.
There are still some things that Cal will chew on to help this squad reach their potential going forward. The trio of starting guards Monk, Fox and Briscoe only had a combined six assists between them. That number will increase going forward as the familiarity in game situations grows.
John Calipari is all about some blocked shots. Derek Willis had three of Kentucky’s seven tonight. The other bigs will probably raise the totals in this department also. However wreaking havoc on the perimeter limits the amount of blocks the bigs have to make and Kentucky did tally nine steals on the evening. That’s pretty good no matter how you slice it.
It was a fun night watching the Cats pass their first test of the season. As always there will be more. Watching them grow between now and then will be fun too.