No. 4 Kentucky will have little time to mull over its double-overtime loss to Michigan State as the Wildcats host South Carolina State in Lexington on Thursday night and then head to Spokane, Wash., for a matchup against No. 2 Gonzaga on Sunday night.
“Now we go forward,” coach John Calipari said after the Wildcats led for the majority of Tuesday’s game but couldn’t put the Spartans away in their 86-77 loss in Indianapolis.
Late defensive breakdowns at the end of regulation and the first extra period allowed unranked Michigan State to tie the game, and the Spartans outscored Kentucky 15-6 in the second OT as the Wildcats lost Oscar Tshiebwe to fouls in the final minute of the first overtime.
Last season’s National Player of the Year, Tshiebwe was making a delayed debut after missing Kentucky’s first two games while recovering from a knee issue. He entered the game at the first media timeout and scored a team-high 22 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and blocked four shots in 34 minutes.
“For Oscar to do what he did without playing for four weeks and never practicing, come on,” Calipari said. “That’s ridiculous.”
The Wildcats also got double-figure scoring efforts from veterans Sahvir Wheeler(16 points) and Jacob Toppin (10), and five-star freshman Cason Wallace had 14 points, five rebounds, five assists and eight steals in playing a team-high 44 minutes.
“And Cason I thought played really well,” Calipari said. “I played him too many minutes.”
Calipari took responsibility for the late-game failures of his team.
“I’m glad we played this game,” he said. “We learned a lot about our team. To go double-overtime this early in the year in that environment and then have to do it without Oscar made it a tough go.”
Getting back home to face a winless South Carolina State team could offer the Wildcats the chance to work out some kinks before heading west.
“We’re a team that needs to get baskets in transition,” he said. “We’ve got to get baskets from the 3-point line.”
The Wildcats did neither against the Spartans with only five fast-break points and 7-of-25 shooting from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs (0-3) are in the midst of a stretch of 11 consecutive games on the road to open their season. First-year coach Erik Martin, a former West Virginia assistant, inherited a 15-16 team with only six scholarship players but in his first month added five more.
Among the returnees is All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference third-team pick Rahsaan Edwards, who scored 16 points in a 78-63 exhibition win over West Virginia Tech but has scored only 19 points total in losses to South Carolina, Tennessee State and Duquesne. Lesown Hallums and Davion Everett lead the Bulldogs in scoring with 12.7 and 12.3 per game, respectively.
“I like my team, they play hard and like being around each other,” Martin told the Orangeburg (S.C.) Times & Democrat before the season. “We have a long way to go, but we’re getting there.”
–Field Level Media