MSU Downs #1 Kentucky 78-74

Dawson was a big factor in the Spartan win - Jamie Sabau

The Spartans made a major statement tonight by beating #1 Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

And #1 Kentucky goes down.

The Spartans faced an extremely talented Kentucky squad and came away with a big win.  With the win, the Spartans will likely move up to #1 in the rankings.  The Spartans took advantage early, going up 10-0 at one point.  Kentucky eventually calmed things down and got going, but could never quite make up for the early dominance of the Spartans.

The player of the game for MSU had to be Keith Appling with 22 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals.  In my preview, I actually said this might be a good matchup for Kentucky.  Not at all.  Appling completely controlled the backcourt and was deadly in transition.  Kentucky had no answer for when MSU got out on the run and this was a major factor in ultimately deciding the game.

Another big plus for MSU was the performance of Branden Dawson.  Most were concerned about his rather underwhelming year in 2012-2013, but he showed that extra speed and jump that many hoped to see.  He only ended with 8 points and 8 rebounds, but he really was a difference maker in this game including making the final tip-in to win the game.

As for Kentucky, the freshmen proved themselves by getting down early and coming back.  Julius Randle struggled to begin the game, but erupted in the second half.  He ended with 27 points and 13 rebounds.  He will be a beast this season and MSU didn't really have an answer late.  Perhaps the most impressive moment was when he scored over three defenders to keep the Wildcats in the game.  On the other hand, the Harrison twins were underwhelming.  Neither were a major factor and both struggled with turnovers and to get the team's offense going.

Final thoughts.  This was a huge win for MSU and the Big Ten.  This is probably the biggest game for the conference until the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.  What a way for the Spartans to represent the conference on a national scale.  For those worried about a dropoff in the Big Ten, it certainly doesn't seem that way so far.

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