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State Farm Champions Classic
Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
Michigan State v (2) Kentucky
November 5, 2019
Kentucky Bests Michigan State at State Farm Champions Classic
This year’s Championship Classic features the top four teams in the nation, with No.1 Michigan State, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Kansas and No.4 Duke.  This is the first time in the nine-year history of the event the four teams have ranked in the top four preseason spots.  Duke came into the game riding a two-game winning streak in this Champions Classic and the team’s 5-3 record in the annual event is the best among the four Blue Blood programs.
While Michigan State is getting used to its first time rank as No. 1 in the country in the Preseason Associated Press poll, the Kentucky Wildcats are pretty comfortable with a No. 2 rank, though they feel the No. 1 spot is really a better place for them.  The Cats, regardless of their ranking, have played a top-10 opponent to open a season five times.  The program, if not the young Cats, are pretty battle-tested, posting a 2-3 record in those match ups.
The Cats took an early lead against the Spartans and maintained it for almost all of the first half, keeping the lead for over 17 minutes.  Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey led the Wildcats in the first half with 11 points, followed by Ashton Hagan’s and Immanuel Quickley’s seven points each.  Both the Cats and the Spartans did their fair share of turnovers, but it was the Cats who were able to score 19 points off of those Michigan State turnovers.  Michigan State’s Cassius Winston was the top scorer in the first half for the Spartans, scoring 12 for the Green. 
34-24 Kentucky at the half.
The second half showed much of the same basketball flavor, with Kentucky out-shooting the Spartans and keeping the lead for most of the second half.  Kentucky’s Junior Forward, Nick Richards made his return to the court after an ankle sprain put him out of the last exhibition game against Kentucky State University.  Richards played about nine minutes in the first half, testing out that ankle strength.  It looked pretty sturdy as he slammed home a two-point rim-shaker midway through the second half.  Ultimately, Richards fouled out of the game, but not before scoring seven and pulling down four rebounds for the Cats.
Still, the Spartans would not let the Wildcats look at them in their rear view mirror.  They stayed with Kentucky throughout the second half, moving to within two points several times.  Responding with that energy a young team can produce in a blink, though, the Cats did not let the Spartans break through.
With about 90 seconds to go, Michigan State’s Winston was fouled shooting and finished up the gift with a handy free throw, putting the Spartans to within that two point possibility again.  But then Kahlil Whitney stepped up for a Spartan crowd-shusher and put a three pointer through the net, putting Kentucky up by five with a minute left to go.  When the Spartan’s own three point attempt fell short, the they were forced to foul a steady-handed Hagans, who quickly put two free throws away, putting Kentucky up 67-62.  It was over at that point, but when opportunity presents…the Cats attack and after the Spartans turned the ball over, Sestina broke down court and put a bow on the beautiful present that was given to Big Blue Nation.  Kentucky bests Michigan State 69-62.
It was a big game for Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey, who led Kentucky scoring with 26 points.  The scoring was also distributed nicely among Ashton Hagans (11) and Immanuel Quickley (10). 
The Cats host the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels on Friday, November 8 at 7:00.


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