LEXINGTON (AP) — Oscar Tshiebwe scored 28 points and had 12 rebounds to lead No. 16 Kentucky to a 69-59 win over Yale on Saturday.
The Wildcats (7-2) pushed their winning streak to four games in a tougher-than-expected contest against the Bulldogs (8-3) from the Ivy League. Yale opened the second half with an 8-0 run to tie the score at 33 before Tshiebwe scored 12 straight to help the Wildcats regain control.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Tshiebwe played a big role in his team’s ability to overcome the gritty Bulldogs.
“He didn’t demand the ball,” Calipari said of Tshiebwe in the first half. “He was passive-aggressive, quick, passing the ball — score the ball. They can’t guard you. Then I told the other guys, we’ve got to throw him the ball. You guys are driving and he’s in the middle wide open. Throw him the ball. “
Tshiebwe was more vocal in the post in the second half.
“We needed that,” Tshiebwe said. “I kept telling (my teammates) to give me the ball. If they are going to double-team me, I am going to kick it out. When they double-teamed me, I was going to work, because they couldn’t stop me. It was good for us. I figured out they couldn’t guard me.”
Earlier this week, Calipari said Tshiebwe was playing at 85% coming off a minor knee procedure during the preseason. Tshiebwe said Saturday that he “jumped up to 95%.”
“I’ve never had an injury before and I don’t think about my knee too much (or) anymore and I’m getting back to where used to be,” he said. "My mind is clear, I don’t about it anymore. I’m just ‘hoopin’.”
Sahvir Wheeler and Antonio Reeves added 10 points each for Kentucky.
Jack Malloy led Yale with 14 points, followed by EJ Jarvis with 12 and August Mahoney with 10.
Cason Wallace scored eight of Kentucky’s first 12 points. The Wildcats led by 12 twice in the first half before Yale narrowed the margin to 33-27 at halftime.
“We guarded pretty good against them and it’s another hard game to play,” Calipari said. “You got to grind it. You know, we when we figured out we could throw it inside, it gave us a gap and some space.”
Calipari will give the Wildcats three days off following an overseas trip to London last Sunday. The Kentucky coach was concerned fatigue would be a factor following a 73-69 win over Michigan and the long plane ride back home.
Yale: The Bulldogs opened with an 8-1 start, their best since the 1945-46 season, but have now lost two in a row. All of Yale's games in December are on the road this month. The Bulldogs hadn't played at Kentucky since 1961.
Kentucky: The Wildcats made four 3-pointers on eight attempts in the first half and have made 45 through the first nine games. The Wildcats have won 25 straight games at home, the longest active streak in the Southeastern Conference. Tshiebwe has recorded a double-double in 33 of 41 games at Kentucky.
Yale: At Fairfield on Monday.
Kentucky: Hosts No. 19 UCLA next Saturday.
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