It was just seven minutes into the first half, seven minutes into this impossibly hyped Kentucky team's impossibly early test against No. 2 Michigan State, and the Wildcats were clearly trying to get back to basics. Harrison called a set at the top of the key, which sent guard James Young careening around screens, but Young couldn't find any space. Michigan State was playing textbook team defense. Switching over the top. Anticipating angles. Smothering.
That's when Harrison, in the middle of a live possession in front of 20,000-plus people, stopped pounding the ball into the floor just long enough to drop his shoulders and sigh.
It was a little gesture, but it said everything. No matter what Kentucky tried, Michigan State answered; the Spartans were cohesive, smart, physical and plenty talented in their own right. They guarded, they turned UK over and they finished in transition. All those Big Blue freshmen the world has waited on so breathlessly looked like exactly that: freshmen.
For one half, anyway.
There can be no indictments of Michigan State's 78-74 win in the first game of the 2013 Champions Classic Tuesday night. Michigan State won the game on the box score, Kentucky had fewer points at the final buzzer, and the Spartans are guaranteed to be No. 1 in next Monday's polls.
But none of that stuff really matters — not this early, not with a team so young, not when Julius Randle and company nearly salvaged an apparent lost cause on the sheer strength of talent alone.