NEW YORK — No. 2 Kentucky leads No. 1 Michigan State 34-24 at halftime in New York. The Spartans were decimated with fouls and 14 turnovers in the first half, as they never regained their lead after Cassius Winston's game-opening layup.
Here are some quick thought from halftime at Madison Square Garden.
Early foul trouble tests MSU's depth:
After all of the talk about Aaron Henry and his summer progressions, Spartan fans saw about three minutes of it before he was sent to the bench with foul trouble. The sophomore from Indianapolis picked up his first foul with 17:42 in the first half when he knocked Kentucky's Ashton Hagans on a converted runner.
Twenty seconds later, Henry picked up his second which sent him to the bench for the final 17-plus minutes of the half.
Henry wasn't the only Spartan that was plagued by foul trouble. Thomas Kithier picked up two fouls, Malik Hall added three, Winston had two, Rocket Watts did as well and Xavier Tillman had two of his own, which really tested the frontcourt of MSU. Marcus Bingham Jr. and Julius Marble were thrown into the fire early.
Bingham had a very active half, finishing two for five with five points and six rebounds, while Marble added two rebounds off of the bench.
Gabe Brown has a solid half off the bench:
When Henry went to the bench with his second foul, Brown was his replacement and immediately helped weather the storm by providing a scoring punch into the lineup.
He finished the half two for six with five points. Brown brought the Spartans within 11-7 on three-pointer in the corner off of a nifty baseline pass from Kithier. He later added a midrange jumper to pull Michigan State within two points at 11-9.
Henry went out in a dangerous spot, with the Spartans trailing 11-4 and not much going well on either side of the floor. Brown stepped in and provided a much-needed lift for Michigan State before things could quickly get out of hand.
Cassius Winston, and then ...?
Michigan State rolled out its expected starting lineup of Winston, Tillman, Henry, Kithier and Rocket Watts. The group combined for 14 points in the first half — 12 of which came from Winston. Tillman was the only other starter that scored in the first half .
The rest — Henry, Watts and Kithier — combined for zero points, two assists and six fouls.
Kentucky, on the other hand, had its five starters combine for 23 points before the break. Granted, foul trouble sent four starters, everyone minus Watts, to the bench before the half could end. But Winston desperately needed some sort of help from his teammates.