Men's Basketball
Cats Face Unbeaten Bobcats on Friday

Cats Face Unbeaten Bobcats on Friday

by Tim Letcher

No. 13 Kentucky welcomes unbeaten Ohio University to Rupp Arena in the Cats’ final game of the Kentucky Classic.

After dropping the season opener against Duke in New York, Kentucky has won two straight games at home. The Cats topped Robert Morris 100-60 behind 19 points from Kellan Grady and 14 points and 20 rebounds from Oscar Tshiebwe.

UK beat Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night, as Tshiebwe scored a career high 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, while TyTy Washington Jr. had a career best 16 points.

Now, the Cats face their biggest challenge since Duke as Ohio University comes to Lexington. The Bobcats are 3-0 on the season, having beaten Belmont, Cleveland State and Robert Morris.

UK head coach John Calipari is impressed with what he has seen from Ohio.

Kentucky vs. Ohio

Fri., Nov. 19 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Rupp Arena
Lexington, Ky.
Game Notes: UK | OU
UK Athletics App


TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Stats

UK Stats OU
2-1 Record 3-0
83.7 PPG 81.3
64/7 Opp PPG 69.0
.488 FG% .445
.414 Opp FG% .447
42.7 RPG 35.7
.451 3PT FG% .383
.264 Opp 3PT FG% .306
18.0 APG 17.3
7.0 SPG 7.3
6.3 BPG 3.3

“This is an NCAA Tournament team, terrific for us to play,” Calipari said. “And we’re going to learn. These early games, that’s what you do. You need games where you can work through the kinks and still build confidence and have guys understand what they can and can’t do.”

Calipari notes how the Bobcats effectively use the three-point shot in their offense.

“That’s how they get on runs. They’re scoring over 80 a game,” Calipari said. “They’ve played good teams. The three, they shoot from every position. The point guard is averaging 20 a game. They were in the NCAA Tournament a year ago and most of their guys are back.”

As for his team, Calipari knows that an opponent like Ohio can give Kentucky some stiff competition that could be beneficial moving forward.

“We need this game to continue our path,” Calipari said. “You need to have tune-up games. You can’t just throw kids into the fire. You need tune-up games. But you also need to be challenged.”

Kentucky is being led by Tshiebwe and point guard Sahvir Wheeler. Tshiebwe is averaging a ridiculous 18.3 points and 18.7 rebounds per game. Wheeler scores 11 points per game and dishes out 10 assists per contest. He has a nearly four-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.

Calipari remembers a couple of things about Wheeler when he was at Georgia.

“Two things – he didn’t guard,” Calipari said. “I’m not even sure he tried. The second was, you could go under a lot because he didn’t shoot the ball.”

When Wheeler and Calipari talked about the guard coming to Kentucky, Calipari told the guard three things that he needed to do.

“I said I know what you’ll do for our team because you’re a point guard. I know what you’ll do for the speed of the game because of who you are,” Calipari said. “There are three things that, if you’re not wiling to do, you shouldn’t come here. You have to be a disruptive defensive player or I’m not helping you. The second thing is, you’ve got to have a floater because you’re not big enough to just go in and shoot layups. The third thing is, you can’t shoot 22 percent from three. You don’t have to shoot 50 percent but you can’t shoot 22 percent. You have to get in the 30’s. If you get those things done, not only have you helped the team, we’ve helped you.”

Early in the season, it appears that Wheeler and the Cats are most certainly helping each other.

Kentucky Rolls Past Mount St. Mary’s

Oscar Tshiebwe’s rebounding drew so much attention that his offense was something of an afterthought. That focus might change after the Kentucky forward showed a skill that was there all along.

Tshiebwe had a career-high 24 points with 16 rebounds, TyTy Washington Jr. scored 16 points and No. 13/11 Kentucky shot well for the second consecutive game to run away from Mount St. Mary’s 80-55 on Tuesday night.

Sahvir Wheeler added 12 points and eight assists as the Wildcats (2-1) made 34 of 64 from the field (53.1%) a few days after hitting 57% in a 100-60 rout of Robert Morris.

Leading 38-27 at halftime, Kentucky broke away with a 23-5 run over 6:40 for a 61-32 cushion that grew to 31 with 7:24 remaining.

Tshiebwe helped set the tone with contributions on both ends on the way to his third double-double to start the season. The West Virginia transfer — who came in averaging 20 boards per game — continued his strong rebounding and also made short and midrange jumpers to finish 11 of 14 from the field and top his previous best of 21 points against Boston University on Nov. 22, 2019.

“I told you all that he can shoot the ball,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of the 6-foot-9 player. “He’s one of our best 15-, 17-foot shooters…. So, we put in some stuff for him to shoot jumpers.”

Tshiebwe took off from there, becoming the first Kentucky player with three consecutive double-doubles since PJ Washington in early 2019. Julius Randle achieved that feat over his first seven games in the 2013-14 season.

“If a big man is staying down there (in the lane), I know I’ve got to shoot,” he said. “Most of the bigs I’m going to play, I believe they’re not going to be fast like me. That is a large advantage for me.”

Washington shot 7 of 12 with a couple of 3-pointers. Keion Brooks Jr. contributed 10 points and seven rebounds to help the Wildcats win the boards 41-27 and dominate the paint 46-16.

Opportunities were certainly there inside the arc as the Mountaineers limited the Wildcats’ perimeter options. Kentucky succeeded nonetheless, hitting 4 of 7 from long range with Washington and Kellan Grady (eight points) each hitting a pair.

“I just feel like if I have an open shot, I’m going to shoot it,” Washington said. “Today, the ball was just going in for me.”
• By holding Mount St. Mary’s to 55 points, UK is now 80-0 under head coach John Calipari when limiting the opponent to 55 or fewer
• UK shot 53.1% from the field, a second consecutive game with better than a 50% clip
• The Wildcats made all eight of their free throws and has made 15 of 16 over the last two games
• UK won the rebounding 41-27. The Wildcats have won all three games on the backboards by an average of 14 per game
• Oscar Tshiebwe’s 56 rebounds are the most by a Wildcat over three games to start a career since at least 1956-57 (as far back as comprehensive box scores go)
• Tshiebwe is the first Wildcat with three straight double-doubles since PJ Washington did it in January and February of 2019 and the first UK player with three straight to start a career since Julius Randle opened his Kentucky career with seven straight in the 2013-14 season
• Sahvir Wheeler’s 30 assists through his first three games as a Wildcat are the most by any UK player to start a career

Wheeling and Dealing

The coaching staff challenged Sahvir Wheeler before the season to lead the nation in assists. It’s early, but so far he’s risen to the occasion.

Through three games, the Georgia transfer leads the country with 10.0 assists per game. Wheeler dished out 10 in the opener vs. No. 9/9 Duke in the Champions Classic — in addition to 15 points — followed it up with 12 dimes in the win vs. Robert Morris and had eight assists and 12 points against Mount St. Mary’s.

Wheeler’s 30 assists are the most ever by a Kentucky player in their first three career games.

John Calipari will tell you he probably played Wheeler too many minutes in the opener vs. Duke. Wheeler clocked in 38 minutes that led to some late miscues when he was fatigued. He ended up with seven turnovers vs. the Blue Devils with five in the second half, tainting what was otherwise a quality debut.

Wheeler cleaned up the mistakes in the regular-season home opener vs. Robert Morris with zero turnovers and had just one against the Mountaineers with 29 minutes of game action. Taking better care of the ball did nothing to slow down the attack of Wheeler.

“He’s running it down your throat,” Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole said of the pressure Wheeler puts on defenses. “The way that he pushes the ball down the floor just encourages all those other guys to run so hard because he’s so unselfish and he’s able to get them shots early in the offense…. He has such a good understanding of the pace, so as soon as there isn’t anything there, he’s able to organize and get into whatever action they’re trying
to execute. There were times in the game that even after a made basket where our guys were sprinting back as fast as they can just trying to keep up. It just adds an incredible amount of pressure to your transition defense. There’s not many guys that can do what he does.”

Wheeler led the Southeastern Conference in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio last season at Georgia. His 193 assists in 2020-21 broke Georgia’s previous single-season assists record by 24 dimes despite a shortened season.

He entered the season ranked sixth among all returners nationally in career assists per game. Wheeler was a preseason All-SEC First Team pick by both the league’s media and coaches. He is also on the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, presented annually to the nation’s top point guard by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


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