But the team also felt the Wooden Award winner’s absence when he was fouled in the first extra time of state of michigan86-77 double overtime win over No. 4 Kentucky in the Champions Classic.
“It was the coach’s decision. [to allow me to play]”, said Tshiebwe on Tuesday after missing the first two games for the team while recovering from arthroscopic surgery. “I went to rehab and everything was fine. I was just going to play a little. The match was really difficult and I had to play. I feel really good.”
Tshiebwe wasted no time showing the crowd, which included a bevy of scouts and NBA executives including Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, why he has a chance to tie Ralph Sampson Jr. as the only two-winner. of the Price of Wood.
Along with his double-double, he also finished with four blocks and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
But the Kentucky star also demonstrated some of the challenges that come with missing a month of training after his surgery in October.
He had five turnovers. He settled for a difficult jump shot that sounded off the edge near the end of regulation. He also got lost in an incoming game at Michigan State when Malik Room scored in the dying seconds of regulation time and sent the game into its first overtime.
Kentucky was outscored 17-7 after Tshiebwe committed his fifth foul with 32 seconds left in the first overtime.
“Oscar isn’t Oscar yet,” Tom Izzo said after the game.
John Calipari said Tuesday was the first time the team played together due to injuries. And Daimion Collins ran out of time due to the death of his father. Calipari said it all took a toll on the Wildcats in a tight game.
“We weren’t ready,” he said after the game. “I told them in the locker room: ‘We are not ready for teams that are ready to finish the end of games.’ They executed better than us.”
But Tuesday’s game also gave Michigan State a shine four days after suffering a 64-63 loss to No. 2 Gonzaga on an aircraft carrier in San Diego. The Spartans have no NBA lottery picks on their roster. Joey Hauser (23 points) and Co., however, played with the courage that defined Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State and earned a victory over a Kentucky team with Final Four potential.
Izzo said he thinks the Spartans grabbed Kentucky at a time when the team was still trying to adjust to Tshiebwe’s return.
“It’s a great team and it’s going to be a great team, so all Kentucky fans: don’t jump ship,” he said. “With [Tshiebwe] I’m just coming back, it’s not easy to bring in a guy like him and everything is going well.”
Tshiebwe entered the game after the first TV timeout with 14:55 left in the first half when Kentucky had a 6-4 lead over Michigan State.
The return of Tshiebwe, who would net a seven-figure sum on name, image and likeness deals this season, extended a solid week for Calipari, which received a commitment from DJ Wager on Monday.
Wagner, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2023 by ESPN, chose Kentucky over Louisville, its main rival.
Kentucky will now face South Carolina State on Thursday before traveling to Spokane, Wash. to face No. 2 Gonzaga on Sunday.
After Tuesday’s game, Tshiebwe said his team will continue to grow now that they are healthy.
“We prepared and we made some mistakes,” Tshiebwe said. “We will work on that and we will improve for the next game.”