Tshiebwe’s “video game” leads Cats past Georgia

LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s getting difficult to describe some of the dominant performances that Oscar Tshiebwe has delivered during his two seasons with Kentucky.

John Calipari gave it a new spin on Tuesday after the junior big man scored a career-high 37 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in the Wildcats’ 85-71 comeback victory at Rupp Arena.

“Oscar was playing a video game,” the UK coach said of the reigning national player of the year.

Added Kentucky senior guard Antonio Reeves: “Oh, man. I ain’t never seen nothing like that in my life. Just to see that, it was crazy… It’s like a different animal out there.”

Tshiebwe, who called out his teammates’ lack of fight last week after a shocking home loss to South Carolina, said he reflected on his own play and the time he was spending in the gym since the loss to the Gamecocks.

The result: two huge performances in wins over No. 5 Tennessee and a solid Georgia squad that led by as many as 11 points in the first half of Tuesday’s game.

“We’ve got our fight back,” Tshiebwe said. “Everybody is now locked in. I’m so proud of our boys. We came together.”

The extra attention to his own game has shown up particularly at the free-throw line, where Tshiebwe followed a 3-for-4 effort against the Volunteers by knocking down 13 of 18 attempts against the Bulldogs. He was 12-of-20 from the field on his way to becoming the first UK player to record at least 35 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Mike Phillips in 1976.

“They wanted him to get 50,” Calipari said of Tshiebwe’s teammates.

Said first-year Georgia coach Mike White: “We had one here last year, Florida vs. Kentucky, where he was incredibly dominant. Like, unbelievably dominant, but not even this dominant. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of this. He was unbelievable. Credit him and his mentality, his motor, and physical toughness, his physicality that he played with, even defensively. We just didn’t match it. At all.”

Kentucky (12-6, 3-3 SEC) also got 17 points from freshman guard Cason Wallace, a double-double from senior forward Jacob Toppin (11 points, 11 rebounds), and 11 points from Reeves.

Georgia (13-5, 3-2 SEC) was led by senior guard Terry Roberts with 21 points and junior guard Kario Oquendo with 18.

After shooting 56% from the field in the first half, the Bulldogs were held to 36% in the second half.


In this “Rapid Recap” feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the UK victory…


The first segment of the second half is often described as the most important part of a close game, and that proved to be the case on Tuesday. Trailing 42-34 at the half, Kentucky opened the second period with a 12-3 run that included nine straight points from Oscar Tshiebwe and a 3-pointer by CJ Fredrick that brought down the house by giving the Cats a 46-45 lead. Georgia was forced to play catch-up for most of the final 16 minutes.


Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky — We had a lot of these “no-brainer” game balls last season with Oscar, and this performance may have been as good as any of them. The junior big man scored a career-high 37 points and flirted with his career high in rebounds by grabbing two dozen. To put the glasswork in perspective, Tshiebwe had more than twice as many offensive rebounds (11) than any Georgia player pulled down total rebounds.


1st – Time a Kentucky player has recorded at least 35 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Mike Phillips had those figures against LSU on Feb. 2, 1976. It’s the fifth 35 & 20 game in UK history, including Phillips, Dan Issel (36-29 vs. LSU on Feb. 22, 1969), Cotton Nash (34-20 vs. Tulane on Jan. 11, 1964) and Bill Spivey (40-34 vs. Xavier on Feb. 13, 1951).

2nd – Time this season that Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (37 points, 24 rebounds) and Jacob Toppin (11 points, 11 rebounds) each posted a double-double. The first was against North Florida in November.

11 – Point deficit for UK on two occasions in the first half.

23 of 30 – Cats’ shooting at free-throw line.

37 – Points by Oscar Tshiebwe tied Malik Monk (Jan. 31, 2017, vs. Georgia) for a UK player in an SEC game under John Calipari.

44-31 – Kentucky advantage in the rebound column.

131-27 – Kentucky’s lead in the all-time series against Georgia, including a 64-5 mark in Lexington.


“I’m tired. I need to go to bed.” — Oscar Tshiebwe’s first words to the media after his huge performance in a 9 p.m. tipoff game.


Kentucky returns to action Saturday at Rupp Arena against Texas A&M in a 2 p.m. ET tipoff on ESPN. The Aggies (12-5, 4-0 SEC) have been one of many pleasant surprises in the SEC this season. They play host to Florida on Wednesday before traveling to Lexington.

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