Despite a depleted roster due to injuries, the Kentucky Wildcats continued their strong play during the non-conference season with an 80-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
Oscar Tshiebwe and TyTy Washington combined for 26 of Kentucky’s 38 points in the first half as the Wildcats used a hot shooting night to beat St. Mary’s in all phases of the game.
Oh, and someone bet $220,000 on Kentucky covering the 24.5-point spread. Those last few minutes had to be an all-time level of stressful for that soul.
If you missed the action, here are the four things you need to know from Kentucky’s victory.
Buy Oscar Tshiebwe Stock
Not only is Tshiebwe off to a fast start as a rebounder, but he also showed off a new and improved mid-range jumper on Tuesday night and is now considered a legitimate scorer, both in the post, and facing the basket within the UK offense.
The West Virginia transfer finished with a career-high 24 points, 14 coming in the first half, and was once again the most physical player on the floor as he was able to muscle his way to 16 rebounds.
Through the first three games of the season, Tshiebwe has been the heart and soul of this team as his stock continue to climb as a potential NBA Draft pick.
The injury bug has hit the Wildcats hard the past week as CJ Fredrick has been lost for the season and Jacob Toppin (shoulder) and Lance Ware (ankle) missed Tuesday’s game and are listed as day-to-day for a possible return. Both provide some interior depth behind Tshiebwe so Collins, a true freshman, was the only big man available off the bench against the Mountaineers, and scored just two points.
With only nine scholarship players available, Keion Brooks stepped up on the defensive end and had seven first half rebounds in 13 minutes of action. The big question is: What’s up with the Jacob Toppin injury?
The 6-foot-9 forward last played in the loss to Duke after missing some of the preseason with a lingering shoulder injury. Toppin is a crucial piece to this year’s team and as it expected to challenge for a starting spot as Kentucky prepares for the likes of Notre Dame, Ohio State and Louisville to close out December.
Wheeler and Washington are both expected to play a ton of minutes this season and each came up big on Tuesday night against St. Mary’s. Once again, Wheeler has been outstanding in transition, getting to the basket and finding open teammates, while Washington heated up from inside, going 2/3 from three-point range to go with a couple of floaters in transition to finish with 14 points.
Grady, who lead the team in scoring in a recent win over Robert Morris, did not even have a shot attempt in the first half and finished with just eight points.
With Frederick out for the season, Davion Mintz, Bryce Hopkins and Dontaie Allen will have to step up to provide some depth in the backcourt or UK John Calipari will be forced to either play Wheeler and Washington 35-plus minutes or roll out some bigger lineups.
Kentucky stayed with its starting lineup of Wheeler, Washington, Grady, Brooks and Tshiebwe with Collins and Mintz getting plenty of run early. With Ware and Toppin on the mend, Bryce Hopkins should see more minutes as Dontaie Allen still remains the odd man out as the last man in the rotation through the first three games.
Allen, who has struggled defensively, played a team-low five minutes in the first half on Tuesday night, but should get ample opportunity to prove he’s an improved defender during the non-conference schedule.
Kentucky, 2-1, returns to action on Friday night at home against Ohio University.
Now, let’s discuss the win!