The 9th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats closed its November schedule with a bang on Monday night at Rupp Arena, hitting on all cylinders in a 85-57 win over Central Michigan.
Kentucky hit its first six shots and turned a 9-5 start into an early 25-5 route as the Wildcats went on a 16-0 run that included seven points from Sahvir Wheeler, six points from Oscar Tshiebwe, and a three-pointer from Kellan Grady as the Wildcats led 51-25 at halftime.
Kentucky was on fire in the opening half, shooting 52.6% from the field (20/38) and 71.4% from three-point range (5/7). The Wildcats last scored 51 first-half points back in 2018 against Winthrop. The 26-point halftime lead was the largest margin since the Wildcats led Vanderbilt 45-15 on its way to a 87-52 win in 2019.
Things got ugly in the second half as Kentucky went cold from the field, shooting just 32% from the field (11/34) and was just 2-for-19 from three-point range. But the Wildcats did too much damage over the game’s opening 20 minutes to secure the victory.
Tshiebwe led Kentucky with 20 points and 16 rebounds. TyTy Washington finished with 15 points, while Keion Brooks and Dontaie Allen had nine each.
Kentucky, now 6-1, returns to action next Tuesday at home against Southern University. The Wildcats will then kick things up a notch with games scheduled against Notre Dame, Ohio State and Louisville all before Christmas Day.
With just seven games under his belt in a Kentucky uniform, Wheeler already looks like he’s mastered the John Calipari playbook, throwing lobs around the rim to the Kentucky bigs who have been a force thanks to Wheeler’s poise and court vision. Most importantly, Wheeler makes good decisions with the ball, and has even shown the ability to hit the pull-up jumper to provide an added spark in the half-court offense.
The early knock on Wheeler has been his tendency to dribble too much and getting his 5-foot-9 frame trapped too far under the basket on occasion. Both of those issues seem to be resolved as the Georgia transfer was outstanding on both ends of the floor on Monday night while playing a team-high 28 minutes. Wheeler finished with seven points and six assists as the Wildcats made just six turnovers for the game, while his defense helped force the Chippewas into 15 turnovers vs. 11 assists.
The Wheeler-Washington combination has the potential to be special and might be one of the best guard tandems in the SEC this season. Wheeler currently leads the conference in assists with 9.2 per game, while Washington leads Kentucky in scoring at 14.8 points per game.