No. 4 Kentucky falters in double overtime, loses Champions Classic game against Michigan State 86-77


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) shoots the ball during the No. 4 Kentucky vs. Michigan State Champions Classic mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Michigan State won 86-77 in the second overtime. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

No. 4 Kentucky mens basketball (2-1) fell apart in double overtime, being defeated by Michigan State 86-77 in the Champions Classic on Tuesday.

The loss saw the Wildcats fall to 1-5 in their last six Champions Classic matchups and 0-2 in their last two overtime games in Gainbridge Fieldhouse, losing in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament against Saint Peter’s in similar fashion.

Despite coming up short in the end, Kentucky led the Spartans for over 33 minutes, only trailing in the game for just over seven minutes. Unfortunately for Kentucky, that seven minutes included the final 1:45.

“I thought these guys fought like heck. When you talk about late-game situations, that’s on me as a coach,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “We just haven’t had our team together to do it (practice late-game scenarios). Lance (Ware) even said to me, ‘Coach, we haven’t worked on this,’ (and it’s) because we haven’t had time and haven’t had the team here.”

The headlines were far from all bad for Kentucky though, with the game also marking the first time this season that the Wildcats were able to play without any starters unable to play.

Returning consensus national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe made his return from injury while Daimion Collins played his first game since the tragic death of his father one week ago, with both stars making their 2022-2023 season debut against the Spartans, following in the footsteps of Sahvir Wheeler, who returned from injury in Kentucky’s last matchup against Duquesne.

While Collins finished with a modest two points, Tshiebwe picked up right where he left off last season, recording a 22-point-18-rebound double double before fouling out in the first overtime period. “Big O” also recorded four blocks on the night, with momentum heavily shifting following his exit from play.

“Somebody hit me and asked me, ‘Do you have him (Tshiebwe) on a minute restriction?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, as many as he can play,’” Calipari said. “He was carrying us for a while. There were a couple of things (he could’ve done better), I thought he could have kicked (the ball) out but come on, he can’t do everything.”

It was Michigan State who was tasked with forcing both the first and second overtimes, recording a dunk with under a minute to play both times, seemingly desperate to hang in the game.

That all changed in the second overtime period – without Tshiebwe – as the Spartans out-scored Kentucky 15-6.

By the time the dust had settled, Kentucky shot just 39% from the field on 70 attempts and 28% from beyond the arc.

Typical lock-down 3-point shooters CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves went a combined 2-9 from beyond the arc with both players finishing with five points.

The Wildcats also recorded 25 personal fouls in the contest with Tshiebwe fouling out and four other players finishing within foul trouble, three of which were one away from joining Tshiebwe on the bench.

Only two Wildcats, Tshiebwe and Reeves, finished with a positive over/under score, contrasted with only two Spartans finishing with negative over/under scores.

Beyond that, one of the most frustrating metrics for coaches and fans alike following the loss will be Kentucky’s 67% free-throw shooting percentage, with the team leaving eight free points on the court.

“We play veteran teams, we have games coming up against really good veteran teams, you’ve got to finish people off and that means making free throws,” Calipari said. “Like I said, we fought, we battled, we put ourselves in a position to win. They know they missed free-throws; at the end of the day, we have got a good team.”

Now looking for a bounce-back opportunity before having to travel to Spokane, Washington, to face off against No. 2 Gonzaga, Kentucky is set to host South Carolina State on Thursday, Nov. 17, inside Rupp Arena.

“I’m glad we played this game, we learned a lot about our team,” Calipari said. “Here’s what I liked, we couldn’t make threes, yet we were going to win the game. That means you’re doing all the other stuff you need to do. I got a full group of guys that all can play, we’re just gonna go from here.”

Tipoff against the Bulldogs is currently scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and will air live on the SEC Network.