Men's Basketball
Backcourt Leads Cats in Tuesday Victory

Backcourt Leads Cats in Tuesday Victory

by Tim Letcher

Following Friday’s Kentucky win over Robert Morris, all of the talk was about big man Oscar Tshiebwe, as it should have been. Tshiebwe had just grabbed 20 rebounds for the second straight game, tying the most rebounds ever by a UK player at Rupp Arena.

But on Tuesday night, while Tshiebwe was still doing his thing (career high 24 points to go with 16 rebounds), it was the backcourt that led Kentucky to a 80-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s.

Specifically, guards TyTy Washington Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler paced the Cats with an effective mixture of driving, passing and making shots.

Washington, the freshman from Phoenix, hit his first five shots from the field on Tuesday and finished with a career high 16 points. He added three assists, three rebounds and a steal.

Meanwhile, Wheeler, the junior from Houston, had 12 points, eight assists, two steals and a rebound. In three games as a Cat, Wheeler has 30 assists. He was leading the nation in that category, averaging 11 assists per game, entering Tuesday’s game.

Combined, that gave the pair 28 points, 11 assists, four rebounds and three steals. That’s solid production.

Washington and Wheeler hit 13 of 23 from the field, including two of four from behind the arc. They did have five turnovers, four of which were by Washington. Calipari lamented those miscues.

“He had four turnovers, though,” Calipari said. “I got on him because the lob he threw, he could have thrown it, hit the top of the back board, and Daimion would go get it. He threw it low. Why would you throw it low? He’s getting better. He’ll be fine.”

Washington knows that he needs to keep honing his craft and things will continue to improve.

“I just know having trust, still having them trust and believe in me and the coaches still believe in me the way they do. I know I’m going to be perfectly fine,” Washington said. “Just got to keep going out there and playing it, you know, never force anything. Just let the game come to me. If that’s me scoring, that’s me scoring. If that’s me rebounding, that’s me rebounding. Pretty much doing whatever it takes to win.”

Calipari is impressed with the progress that Wheeler continues to make. When asked what he’s doing better, Calipari’s answer was simple.

“He is not losing his mind,” Calipari said. “Believe me, after the game he looked at me and said, I had one turnover, so he knows it’s important to me. Who is it going to be important to? Him.”

With Tshiebwe continuing to be an imposing figure inside for the Cats, a strong backcourt will make Kentucky a much more formidable opponent as the season moves forward.

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