CHICAGO — Three quick things from UK’s 78-74 loss to Michigan State in the Champions Classic:
1. Too many mistakes. The Cats made just 20 of 36 free throws. They made just four of 20 three-pointers. They committed 17 turnovers against just eight assists. And yet they were in the game, tied 66-66 with 4:48 remaining before losing.
The Cats lost because, for starters, you can’t miss 16 free throws and expect to win a college basketball game. Kentucky made just 14 of 26 in the second half for 53.8 percent. Exhaustion had something to do with that. Youth had something to do with that. But you’ve got to hit your free throws.
That “will to win” that Calipari talks about showed in the final 10 minutes. That leads us to No. 2.
2. Julius Randle was a beast. The freshman produced another double-double, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. It was third double-double in three college games. He’s now scored 72 points and grabbed 42 rebounds in those three games.
Randle scored 23 of his points tonight in the second half. He scored 15 points in the game’s 9:41. He played so hard for so long, Randle was cramping in the crowded post-game press conference room and left before he fielded a single question.
3. “We’ll be fine,” Calipari said. And he’s right. For one thing, we don’t have to listen to anymore of that silly 40-0 talk. For another, Calipari knows what parts of the team needs work. There was a little too much pouting in the first half. There was not enough sprinting back on defense.
The Harrison twins need to play better and can play better. Aaron was one-of-seven from the floor, missing all five of his three-point attempts. Andrew Harrison scored 11 points, but committed four turnovers compared to just three assists.
The best news was the boards. Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State is known for rebounding. Kentucky outrebounded the Spartans 44-32 for the game, 28-16 in the second half.
Photo of Branden Dawson’s tip-in with five seconds left by Mark Cornelison/Herald-Leader