NEW YORK — Kentucky confounded Michigan State’s halfcourt offense while the Wildcats’ guards shot and slashed their way to a big Tuesday night in a 69-48 victory against the Spartans at Madison Square Garden.
Freshman Cassius Winston and sophomore Kenny Goins 13th-ranked Michigan State with 9 points each. Freshman Miles Bridges made a few highlight plays but struggled mightily en route to just 6 points on 2-of-11 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and 9 turnovers. Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe combined for 44 points for the No. 2-ranked Wildcats.
After his team fell to 0-2 on the season, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had plenty to say.
On the game in general:
“I’m actually a little embarrassed,” Izzo said in an opening statement. “I thought we competed defensively for the most part. We just didn’t do anything offensively. We looked like a team that was an AAU team, going 1-on-1, not moving the ball. We got frustrated. I think some of it was we were a little fatigued and I think John [Calipari] did a hell of a job. I think that is one of his better defensive teams and they did a very good job.
“I went into the game thinking our 5-men were going to hurt us against them and we had 17 [points] and 14 rebounds from our two 5-men. It was the guards that didn’t really play very well. You have to give Monk credit. He hit some big 3s early, unguarded on the break, which they are very good at.
“If you look at our game plan, we wanted to contain [De’Aaron] Fox and I thought we did that somewhat. Our problems were the turnovers. I don’t have any excuses why our shooters weren’t ready to shoot. We’re going to have improve that.”
On Kentucky’s defense:
“They are just so athletic and long. They’re so long. We’re a midget crew and they are a long crew. They are long at every position. Starting from the point, from [Tum Tum Nairn] at 5-10 to [Fox] at 6-3. Then with Monk and [Eron] Harris, I was disappointed. I thought Eron was one of our better defenders last year but he didn’t play as well. Inside, we got some penetration like we thought we could but they have shot blockers back there.”
On the team being limited right now, and Miles Bridges getting frustrated:
“It’s not as limited as … don’t jump off the tree yet. What we are is we’re short. We should be getting beat on the boards. We should be getting killed in the post. That didn’t happen. The problem is, when we lost to the two bigs, we have to cover things differently. [Gavin] Schilling can guard a guard, so that makes things a little different. It is going to take some time.
“I’m not going to make excuses for me, but I am going to make one for our players. It was a long trip, and you come here and play probably the most athletic team we’re going to see all year. We hung in there. The play right before halftime was disappointing, but we’re better than this offensively. I thought we’d be a better shooting team. [Matt] McQuaid was never ready to shoot.
“Miles, I felt for Miles. This happens to freshmen. He got frustrated. He didn’t get ticked off, but he was frustrated. They were loading up on him. Give John credit, they did a hell of a job every time he touched it. Miles has got to learn to move the ball better. It was more our lack of offensive execution than not making shots.”
On the schedule forcing the team to grow up fast:
“Growing up fast has to happen, but we had one day of prep after getting back [from Hawaii, where the Spartans lost to Arizona 65-63]. It’s hard to grow up when you have no preparation time. We’ll get back and have one day of prep [before Mississippi Valley State on Friday]. It’s just a bad month. That part doesn’t faze me. I’m not worried. I’ve got good guys. I was disappointed in how we sort of ‘deer in headlights’ but you’ve got four freshmen at Madison Square Garden. We’ll get better. I thought our defense would be a problem, but it’s our offense that hasn’t been great.”
On being disappointed with Eron Harris:
“I was disappointed in Eron, to tell you the truth. Last year I thought he was our best defensive player, but sometimes when you switch roles, you forget where you came from. We’ve got to get him back on track. He’s a good shooter, and we’ve got to get him more shots. That’s one thing. Our execution was poor. We need a little more time with Nick [Ward]. He’s a pretty good offensive player, but not very good at getting through the plays and that hurts Eron on the ball screens. Eron has to do a better job.”
More on Bridges:
“I wanted to see more boards, but now I’m switching back to more points. Maybe I’m confusing him. Miles came off with a minute-and-a-half left and I said, ‘Miles, welcome to the real world. No more high school. You’re going to get doubled. You’re going to get this and this. Just register and learn.’ This is part of the process. His buddy [Kansas freshman Josh Jackson] went through it out in Hawaii [in a 103-99 loss to Indiana last week]. Others are going through it. I thought John did a good job on him. Give them some credit. I thought Miles starting doing things that he can do, but he can’t do them when it is 1-on-3. That’s a little bit of my fault. I have to do better getting through to him, because he’s an extremely coachable kid. Nobody is more hurt than he is right now and that is kind of a treat.”
On the schedule, travel and personnel limitations:
“You know, when you make the schedule, we’re a little different than Kentucky and Duke. They get guys who they know are gone after one year. We thought Deyonta [Davis] was going to be here, and that’s a 6-10 pro until the very end of the year was always coming back. Then when you lose the two 6-9 guys with experience, it has been a challenge. The travel has been a challenge. This is going to make us stronger and better though.
“Miles was embarrassed tonight. Those were his words. That’s good, that’s really good. Some people are out there beating people by 30. Of course, Kentucky just got us by 20. But they’re beating teams by 30 and getting a false feel for where their teams are at. I told our guys, ‘You’re going to get exposed.’ But we’re going to look at two-thirds of this game and think we played pretty good. We took a couple pretty good punches in the mouth and hung in there. That play at the end of the half was disappointing, but that will be one of the learning things.
“I’m not discouraged. I don’t think we’re going to be a poor team. I don’t know who was picked 1-2-3-4 in football. I’m just sure as hell glad that I’m in the roundball sport, because I’ve got a chance to regroup here and most of those guys don’t.”