Oscar Kentucky

We See You, Oscar

On Monday, Coach John Calipari had a challenge for Oscar Tshiebwe:

On Tuesday, against the Georgia Bulldogs, he answered the call, putting the entire college basketball world on notice and reminding them that he is still the best player in the game – and it’s not even remotely close.

37 points and 24 rebounds – also add in his three steals and one block.

An absolutely mammoth performance for the reigning (unanimous) National Player of the Year. His sheer dominance helped the Cats eviscerate an eight-point halftime deficit and led them to an 85-71 victory over UGA.

To say that Big O’s night was historic would be putting it lightly.

His 37 points are a career-high. The 24 rebounds are a season-best, and it is the first 30 and 20 game of his entire career. The last UK player to go for 30 and 20 was Mike Phillips, who did so a whopping 47 years ago, in 1976.  It is also just the fifth 30 and 20 performance in Kentucky history (Spivey 40-34 in ‘51, Nash 34-20 in ‘64, Issel 36-29 in ‘69, Philips 35-20 in ‘76).

According to ESPN, Tshiebwe’s 24 rebounds are the most from a DI Player with a 35-point game in the last quarter-century. It is also the fourth 30+ point game of his career. His 37 points tied Malik Monk (vs Georgia ‘17) for most points in an SEC game and the third-most points in any contest in the Cal era. Tshiebwe’s points-rebounds-assists total of 62 (37-24-1) was the most of any player in the Cal era, breaking his own previous record of 50 (30-18-2) from the Arkansas game last season. 

It is the sixth 20-rebound game of his career. In the past 49 seasons, all Kentucky players ever have a combined total of just five 20-rebound games. Big O entered the game leading the nation in offensive rebounding with 5.6 per game, and he finished with 11 offensive boards on Tuesday.

He could have had a double-double with either offensive (11) or defensive rebounds (13) – the second time he’s accomplished that feat (against Robert Morris last season). It is his SEC-best 11th double-double of the season. Tshiebwe has 39 double-doubles in 50 career games for UK. 

Drawing 12 fouls during the game, he had career highs by making 13 of 18 free throws. He also had a season-high-tying three steals.

So yes, it’s safe to say that John Calipari’s message got through to Big O!