The Kentucky Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season on Tuesday night, falling to the Michigan State Spartans 78-74 in the Champions Classic. Kentucky fell behind 10-0 at the beginning of the game, but was able to fight back late before coming up short.
Many in the media have been critical of Kentucky’s play in the game. The Wildcats turned the ball over 17 times and hit only 20-of-36 (55.6 percent) from the free throw line. Those numbers certainly hurt Kentucky’s chances, but consider two things.
First, Kentucky had 10 more turnovers than Michigan State and missed 16 free throws, yet lost by only four points to the second-ranked team in the country. If Kentucky has, say, 12 turnovers, do they win the game? Perhaps. What if the Wildcats hit 25-of-36 (69.4 percent) from the free throw line? Do they win the game? Simple math says yes.
Second, Kentucky started four freshman and a sophomore in the game, and this was the third game of the 2013-14 season. So, it was the third career game for Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Julius Randle and James Young. On Nov. 12, they were asked to face a team that returned four starters from last season and is the favorite to win the Big Ten Conference title.
There is little doubt that Kentucky has the most talented roster in the country. Now that they have seen, up close and personal, what a really good college team (Michigan State) looks like, the Wildcats will have a better idea of how they need to play and where they need to improve as the season progresses.
John Calipari has the pieces in place for a championship team. If he can mold this group of individuals into a team, it could be a special season in Lexington. That remains to be seen, but to criticize the young Wildcats for losing to Michigan State, especially this early in the season, is misguided.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the United States Basketball Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.
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