NEW YORK – Miles Bridges turned the ball over.
Miles Bridges rotated too slowly on defense.
Miles Bridges missed a tomahawk dunk.
He’s human. He’s a freshman. And he and Michigan State were no match for No. 2 Kentucky tonight in the Champions Classic.
The 13th-ranked Spartans endured much of the same inconsistency they experienced in Friday’s season-opener against Arizona, with stretches of strong play and longer spurts of mistakes. And Kentucky slowly pulled away to a 69-48 victory.
Kentucky (3-0) outscored MSU, 6-2, to close the first half and then opened the second period with an 11-5 run. The Spartans (0-2) never got within double digits after that.
MSU opens its home slate with a pair of 7 p.m. games at Breslin Center this weekend, against Mississippi Valley State on Friday and Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.
After scoring 21 points in his debut, Bridges finished with a more pedestrian six points on 2 of 11 shooting and 12 rebounds. However, the 6-foot-7 phenom from Flint also committed nine turnovers and looked out of sync all night against the longer, more agile Wildcats.
When Tom Izzo pulled him out of the game with about 45 seconds left, Bridges put his arm around his coach and his head on his shoulder in frustration.
The Spartans shot just 32.8% for the game and committed 20 turnovers and 20 personal fouls. No one scored in double figures as Kenny Goins and Cassius Winston led MSU with nine points each.
Kentucky freshman Malik Monk led all scorers with 23 points, including seven three-pointers. Sophomore Isaiah Briscoe added 21 for the Wildcats.
Many of the same problems that plagued the Spartans against Arizona in Honolulu followed them to Madison Square Garden – only this time, Bridges struggled to bail them out.
A number of sloppy MSU turnovers in the half-court to turn into breakaway buckets, even though the Spartans held the Wildcats to 38.3% shooting.
MSU kept things close for the first 6-plus minutes, even though Kentucky made its first three three-pointers. Matt McQuaid’s triple from the right wing tied the game, 12-12. That included five quick points from Winston before he picked up a second quick foul at the 14:42 mark.
The Wildcats kept hitting from long distance and in transition over the first 20 minutes. They used a 14-2 run, capped by Monk’s fourth three-pointer in the half, to surge ahead, 26-14, with 6:07 before half.
But like they did in Hawaii, the Spartans rode waves of good play with their young lineup. Nick Ward got a rebound putback, Joshua Langford drained a pair of three-pointers and Bridges drove baseline for a two-hand dunk. It was part of a 4-minute, 10-2 run that got MSU back within four points.
But defensive lapses continued. A well-defended lob for Langford turned into a layup for Briscoe in transition, and the Kentucky sophomore sliced between a pair of Spartans as time expired to send the Wildcats into the locker room with a 34-26 cushion.
Bridges, especially, typified the up-and-down play of MSU in the first half. He grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots. He also was just 1 of 4 from the floor for three points, missing a pair of three-point tries, and turned the ball over five times.
MSU held a 22-18 edge in rebounding, but the Wildcats had a 12-2 edge in fastbreak points and turned MSU’s 11 turnovers into nine points.
Monk’s 14 and Briscoe’s 10 led Kentucky at intermission.
Bridges opened the second half with a three-pointer, but Kentucky dashed off nine of the next 11 points, capped by another Monk triple to build its lead to 45-31.