Freshman Tyrese Maxey, making his college basketball debut under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, led the Kentucky Wildcats to a 69-62 win over top-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday night in a star-studded performance on the national stage.
Maxey had a game-high 26 points and nailed every big shot needed to lift the Wildcats to victory. Ashton Hagans finished with 11 points, while Immanuel Quickley also scored in double figures with 10.
The Wildcats turned in a stellar defensive performance in the first half and held the Spartans to just 29.6 percent from the field as Kentucky led 34-24 at halftime.
But despite a tough night offensively, Michigan State battled back late in the second half to cut the lead to three at 56-53 with six minutes remaining. That’s when Maxey turned up the heat with a quick bucket before forcing a turnover that resulted in a Hagans lay-up to push the lead back to 60-53 with 4:44 left.
Maxey says that they put the PIT BULL on Winston to slow him down. Kid is glowing in postgame pic.twitter.com/7Jz5pcuGo9— Big Blue Drew (@BigBlueDrew33) November 6, 2019
The Spartans made one final run when Cassius Winston hit a runner in the lane and made a free three to convert a conventional three-point play to cut the Kentucky lead to 62-60 with 1:27 left in regulation. Once again, Maxey stepped up and hit a deep three-pointer at the 1:00 mark to give the Cats a 65-60 lead and some breathing room down the stretch. Hagans followed with two free throws and Nate Sestina put an exclamation point on things with a thunderous dunk to close the game.
Awesome stuff here from Coach Cal on Tyrese Maxey’s spirit. pic.twitter.com/wl7gZI0PJF— Big Blue Drew (@BigBlueDrew33) November 6, 2019
Kentucky, 1-0, now appears destined for AP’s No. 1-ranking as the Cats prepare for the non-conference schedule in November. The Wildcats return home on Friday night to host Eastern Kentucky at 7:00 p.m.
After the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari and select players met with the media to discuss the win. Here is a recap of all postgame comments, courtesy of UK Athletics.
On Tyrese Maxey:
”I didn’t start him because I told him, ‘I want you to come in firing.’ And I said, ‘I want you to watch what’s happening and then you get in there and you let it go.’ Early on, he wasn’t. Then he got into it and he started putting it in ball screens and doing different things that I’ve seen him do and what’s made him better, I don’t know if he said this, but he has to go against Ashton [Hagans] every day. Like, it’s ridiculously hard. Like he gets demoralized at times and I keeping telling him, ‘there’s no defender like this kid.’”
”What I saw today is what I saw in high school. I had not seen it to this point.”
On Michigan State:
”They’re good. Tommy [Izzo] and I said after neither one of us played great. I mean, we just made a couple of plays late and they didn’t but, you know, my hope would be, you know, late, late, late, late we’re playing them again. Like late, late, late like two of us left, because I’m a big fan of Tom a(Izzo)and the program and their kids and Cassius [Winston] is terrific young man.”