Maxey leads No. 2 Kentucky past No. 1 Michigan State 69-62

Maxey led all scorers with 26 points

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NEW YORK (AP) — Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky’s latest freshman star, scored 26 points and the second-ranked Wildcats opened the season with a 69-62 victory against No. 1 Michigan State on Tuesday night in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The Nos. 1 and 2 teams opened their seasons against each other for the first time since 1975 and the Wildcats made their case to be top-ranked next week.

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Michigan State entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time, but aside from All-American Cassius Winston, the Spartans struggled to score. Winston had 21 points.

This Kentucky team is built around returning contributors instead of one-and-done freshmen, but Maxey asserted himself in his first game.

After Winston cut the lead to three on a three-point play with 1:27 left, Maxey hit a 3 from way behind the line to make it 65-60 with 59 seconds left.

The Champions Classic brought the top-four teams in the nation to the same building for the first time in college basketball. No. 4 Duke beat No. 3 Kansas 68-66 in the opener of the doubleheader. The nightcap marked the fourth No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in college basketball in the last 10 years, and the third involving Michigan State in the Champions Classic.

The passionate fanbases sold out the Garden. Kentucky supporters and Michigan State traded “Go Big Blue!” and “Go Green! Go White!” chants when things got close. It was a marquee, event but a choppy game. Neither team shot over 40% from the field and they combined to shoot 50 free throws.

The Spartans couldn’t find the range from 3, going 5 for 26 and certainly looked like they could have used the scoring of senior guard Joshua Langford, who is expected to be out until January with a right foot injury.

Michigan State had whittled a 10-point halftime deficit down to four when Kentucky went on a 9-0 run behind 3s from Kahlil Whiney and Nate Sestina, pushing the lead to 54-41 with 9:57 left in the second half.

Kentucky’s veteran backcourt of Ashton Hagans (11 points) and Immanuel Quickley (10 points), both sophomores, but were outshined by Maxey. The 6-foot-3 guard from Texas attacked the basket and made clutch 3s.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Wildcats coach John Calipari improved to 6-4 against No. 1 teams, including 3-2 at Kentucky.

Michigan State: The Wildcats looked more the part of the No. 1 team in the country in the first half, building 34-24 lead and disrupting the Spartans with their length and depth. It was all Winston for Michigan State. The senior had 12 points, and the rest of the starting lineup managed just two points.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky: The Wildcats go home to face Eastern Kentucky on Friday.

Michigan State: The Spartans host Binghamton on Sunday.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com