The offense continued to struggle in the first half, and they also failed to stay in the front of their man on the defensive end as Georgia scored at will After Bulldog guards drove one-on-one over and over again, Kentucky went into the half down 42-34, which was the largest deficit at home against Georgia in Kentucky history.
Regardless of the historical precedent, Georgia came into the game ranking 128th in the country in offensive efficiency and scored their first-half season high in this one.
After the break, Kentucky’s offense exploded and the defense stood strong. Oscar Tshiebwe took over and the Cats stepped up to the challenge as their second-half performance was an impressive showing.
The game was won thanks to Oscar Tshiebwe finishing with 37 points and 24 boards for arguably the best game of his college career.
Next up, the Cats will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in Rupp Arena.
The Cats came out with the same starting lineup as they did against the Tennessee Volunteers with Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin, and Oscar Tshiebwe.
Although I’m a firm believer that Antonio Reeves should be in the starting group and Livingston has to play the four to maximize his potential, the good news is the starting five didn't include Sahvir Wheeler, who we’ll get to in a minute.
Even if Livingston doesn't belong at the three, it's better than the alternative of starting Wheeler.
Wheeler returned, but it wasn't pretty
Sahvir Wheeler does a lot of good things on the basketball court, and while I’ve been extremely critical of him all season long, I’ve officially reached the point that it’s clear he's a stat stuffer who doesn't often contribute positively to this team.
He’s an extreme defensive liability as his on-ball defense is abysmal and there’s no rim protector to make up for it, which makes it hard to have him and Tshiebwe in together. We all know who gets the nod in that situation.
In fact, at one point in the late first half and early second half, after Kentucky fell behind by double digits with Wheeler in, Calipari broke his golden rule of playing Wallace with two fouls in the first half and the Cats went on a 19-5 run to take control of the game.
Finally, Calipari realized Wheeler’s defensive issues, terrible turnovers, and inability to spread the floor are just too many liabilities to play him significant minutes on a good basketball team. He played him accordingly, and while I don't think he shouldn't be benched entirely, the minutes should be limited from here on out.
Big O cannot be stopped
What a performance from the reigning National Player of the Year. What else can you say?
I think we all can agree Tshiebwe hasn't been the same player this season as he was last year and Calipari even called him out on it on his Monday night call-in show.
“I told Oscar, ‘You’re not spending as much time in the gym as you did a year ago. You got to get back in there and be committed.’”
I think it’s safe to say Oscar received the message and responded. The big man was absolutely unstoppable down low and on the glass, and he even knocked down his free throws—all reminiscent of his domination last season.
Tshiebwe finished with an absurd 37 points (career high) and 24 rebounds.
It wasn't always pretty, but the Cats got the job done and now have a couple of solid performances to build off of. This team is moving in the right direction, so let’s keep it going.