It was a night of nights at Madison Square Garden, the inaugural State Farm Champions Classic, a sold-out arena and the Division 1 head coaching win record for Mike Krzyzewski. It reminded me of college basketball’s golden age at the old Garden where capacity crowds watched doubleheaders featuring the stars of the day.
The main story line for Tuesday, November 15, 2011 was the 903rd win for Coack K breaking Bob Knight’s record. Knight was on hand to congratulate his ex-pupil as were 25-30 alumni of Coach K’s Duke teams. It was special for Krzyzewski to break the record in the “hallowed” basketball site of Madison Square Garden. It was just as special to see a sellout crowd of 19,979 with strong representation of all the participating teams, Kansas and Kentucky as well as Duke and Michigan State cheering in support of their teams. The new Madison Square Garden has been getting some much needed renovations recently and it’s nice to see the Garden try to recapture its history as the mecca of college basketball.
The Duke-Michigan State game ended with a 5-point Blue Devil win (74-69) but after Duke ran off 12 straight points early in the second half to take a 53-40 lead there was no real suspense of which team would come out the victor. Andre Dawkins had the game of his career for Duke, scoring 26 points, including 6-of-10 from long range, four steals and no turnovers. His backcourt mate Seth Curry helped out with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals and 6’11 Ryan Kelly was perfect scoring his 14 points on 3-for-3 from the field, two from deep and 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Keith Appling tried to keep Michigan State in the game with 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
In the nightcap, a very strong #2-ranked Kentucky defeated #11 Kansas 75-65 as all five Wildcat starters scored in double-figures led by Doron Lamb’s 17 points. Kentucky pulled away from a 28-28 halftime tie on the three-point shooting from Lamb and the interior presence of Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones. This Kentucky team looks better than last year’s team. Jones has added a year of experience and is stronger. Davis is incredibly long, is very gifted and will likely be a top pick in the next NBA draft and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist adds size and athleticism to the wing. Marquis Teague looks like he’ll be a solid point guard for the team. Look for the Wildcats in the Final Four this year. 6’9 Thomas Robinson gave it his all to try to keep Kansas in the contest with 11 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late. All in all, it was a wonderful night at the new Madison Square Garden.