Cassius Winston played like a National Player of the Year candidate on Tuesday.
But Kentucky freshman Tyrese Maxey shone a little bit brighter in a breakout debut to lead the No. 2 Wildcats to an 69-62 victory over the top-ranked Spartans in the Champions Classic headliner at Madison Square Garden.
Maxey stars, hits dagger in win
While the Wildcats clamped down as a unit on defense, the freshman point guard starred on offense, tallying 26 points and five rebounds and two assists off the bench. His deep 3-pointer as the shot clock ticked down with a minute remaining extended Kentucky’s lead to 65-60, fending off a late Spartans rally.
Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey drills a three from the parking lot in his first college game. pic.twitter.com/YkUUPgkGuy
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 6, 2019
As usual, head coach John Calipari brought in an elite group of freshmen with the second-ranked recruiting class in the country. Maxey is the crown jewel who should find his way off the bench sooner than later.
Kentucky threatened to run away with the game, taking double-digit leads on multiple occasions. The Spartans responded with rallies whenever the Wildcats expanded their lead, but ultimately couldn’t come up with a run to take the lead.
Strong effort from Kentucky defense
Kentucky took a 5-4 lead and never relinquished it as its defense locked up Michigan State players not named Winston. The Big Ten preseason Player of the Year tallied 21 points and four assists to keep the Spartans in the game.
His and-one floater in the lane cut a 54-41 Kentucky lead to 62-60 with 1:27 remaining. But Maxey’s 3-point answer on the other end staved off the late Michigan State push.
Neither team shot well, as tends to be the case early in the college basketball season. Michigan State connected on 39.3 percent of its field goals, while Kentucky hit at a 38 percent clip. Maxey’s 7-of-13 performance from the field was the difference in the game.
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