The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy: “Kentucky’s stud freshmen show they can turn it up against likes of Michigan State“
What will the offense become? Yes, the Wildcats beat Michigan State easily. But several components of the promised attack were not involved in this game. Not even remotely. Senior Derek Willis, a stretch-4 type of forward, did not attempt a shot in the first half and had only one for the game. Center Bam Adebayo, the expected post presence there to draw defenders to the interior so the guards have room to shoot, was 2 of 3 from the field.
Of the team’s 11 first-half baskets, both Isaiah Briscoe and Malik Monk had five apiece. The starting guards scored 19 of the team’s 23 field goals.
Monk was phenomenal, firing 3-pointers as though he’d been shooting in the Garden his entire life. But Kentucky is going to want to be more varied on offense, and it might not be until they are challenged more sternly than this that Calipari discovers the best design for this particular team.
Remember, he has rearranged the attack of several previous Kentucky teams as the season advanced – at least one time as late as March. We may not know for a while how he’ll best deploy this talented group.
Remember, this squad has been together for about a month. It is young, but oh so talented. They play well as a team and Michigan State’s size advantage was a small factor.
This Wildcat club can run, baby, run! They have tremendous athletic ability and go from the defensive end to the offensive end so fast. This has the making of a very special team.
This wasn’t exactly a typical Michigan State team. Down a couple of frontcourt guys, and forced to start a former walk-on at center, the Spartans were thoroughly overmatched. Kentucky had the clear talent advantage, and just about every other edge one could imagine coming into this game. Even travel. Kentucky played its first two games at Rupp while Michigan State lost a close game Friday night in Hawaii.
This game was never in question, and while normally a 21-point victory over an Izzo-coached team would be cause for celebration, that shouldn’t be the case after this one.
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander: Freshman Malik Monk finally gets going and Kentucky shows signs it can be great
“The difference in the game was Monk,” Izzo said.
Without a doubt. With Monk’s range, confidence, athletic ability and aggressive mindset, he pushed UK past MSU before halftime came. In the second half, Kentucky was allowed to fail in spots — though those spots were rare. This is one of the best freshman classes Calipari’s ever had, which is saying a lot. The defense is going to show up almost every time. We see now what happens when Monk is in the fold. Kentucky looks more complete, tougher to guard and eminently watchable.
It doesn’t take a physicist to figure out that the Achilles’ heel for this team is going to be their perimeter shooting, the same way that it was for the 2010 team. And on the nights when Monk gets hot from deep, this is the result that you’re going to get. When he gets rolling like this, Monk has ‘gravity’. Defenses have to adjust to his presence on the floor. He pulls help defenders out of position, he creates driving lanes for the likes of Fox and Briscoe and, eventually, it will create space for Bam Adebayo, Isaac Humphries and the rest of Kentucky’s front court in the paint.
ESPN’s Jay Bilas:
Malik Monk. Damn. He's a big time player! So much for freshmen not being ready for the big stage. #readyforthespotlight
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 16, 2016
But Isaiah Briscoe is proving that if you stay at Kentucky, you can improve from one year to the next and become an effective program player.
Playing in front of 38 family and friends and a capacity crowd that included Knicks star and Briscoe’s mentor Carmelo Anthony, the Newark native went for 21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover as No. 2 Kentucky throttled No. 13 Michigan State, 69-48, in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.