By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
For the first time in college basketball history, the second-ranked team in the nation defeated the No. 1 squad to open the season.
Kentucky erased the pain of last year’s embarrassing showing in the State Farm Champions Classic with a 69-62 win over top-ranked Michigan State Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats came into the contest ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll and are poised to take over the top spot next week.
Coach John Calipari notched his sixth career win in 10 games against a No. 1 team.
The showdown marked the first time the top two teams played against each other in the season opener since No. 1 Indiana defeated second-ranked UCLA 84-64 in 1975. Kentucky improved to 5-4 in the prestigious event after dropping a 118-84 setback to Duke in the same event a year ago at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Wildcats got a big performance from freshman guard Tyrese Maxey who scored 26 points in his collegiate debut. Maxey connected on three of Kentucky’s six shots from long range. Maxey made 9-of-10 free throws, grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists and collected one steal.
Maxey’s biggest contribution was a 3-pointer with a minute remaining that gave the Wildcats a 65-60 advantage. A slam by Nick Sestina put the exclamation point on the season-opening victory. Sestina finished with seven points and grabbed six rebounds.
Ashton Hagans followed Maxey with 11 points, while Immanuel Quickley had 10.
Nick Richards made his return to the lineup after missing last week’s exhibition game against Kentucky State with a sprained ankle.
Maxey led Kentucky with 11 points in a first half that featured 26 fouls combined by both teams. Hagans and Quickley combined for seven points, while EJ Montgomery chipped in with six points.
Kentucky led Michigan State 34-24 at the half.
Cassius Winston led the Spartans (0-1) with 21 points.
In the opener, No. 4 Duke edged third-ranked Kansas, 68-66. Tre Jones led the Blue Devils with 15 points.
GAMETRACKER: Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Friday. Radio: 100.7 The Coyote
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.