By LARRY VAUGHT
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo — and probably a lot of other college basketball coaches — wanted to see if Kentucky could make outside shots.
Well, Izzo and others, including about 100 NBA scouts, learned one thing Tuesday night when UK beat Michigan State 69-48 in the Champions Classic in New York’s Madison Square Garden. On a given night, freshman Malik Monk can make a bunch of them.
He was only 3-for-12 from 3-point range in UK’s first two games but he made SEVEN three-pointers, including four in the first half, and finished with a career-high 23 points. He was 8-for-17 overall from the field.
Teammate Isaiah Briscoe again provided the inside scoring as he’s powered his way through State’s defense to score 21 points on 8-for-18 shooting along with five rebounds, one steal and one assist.
Kentucky got up 12 points early and then slacked off a bit to lead just 34-26 at halftime when Monk and Briscoe combined for 24 points.
The second half, though, was all UK as Michigan State — which was without two injured players and was playing after losing to Arizona in Hawaii on Friday — seemed to wear down against UK’s speed and length.
The Cats pushed the lead to 59-38 midway of the second half as point guard De’Aaron Fox kept pushing the offense. Kentucky had that lead despite shooting under 40 percent overall from the field at the time and getting outrebounded by the Spartans.
Fox was just 3-for-10 from the field, but he went 6-for-6 at the foul line and has now made 21 free throws he’s shot this year. He had five assists, four rebounds, one steal and one block.
Bam Adebayo had six points, five rebounds and three blocks. Wenyen Gabriel came off the bench to grab six rebounds, score six points, make four steals and block one shot.
Kentucky finished the game shooting 38 percent overall and was 7-for-22 from 3-point range compared to 5-for-26 for the Spartans. At the foul line, UK made 16 of 20 shots and State just 3-for-9. Kentucky got outrebounded 41-36 and had 14 turnovers.
But the number that mattered most is that Kentucky not only won, but won in a big, big fashion in its first major test of the season.