Oscar Tshiebwe erupts for career-high 30 points against Vanderbilt


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) shoots the ball during the UK vs. Southern basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 76-64. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe erupted for a 30-point double-double in Kentucky’s 78-66 win at Vanderbilt.

The performance from Tshiebwe helped boost the Wildcats to win their first true road game of the season, with UK improving to 1-2 in hostile environments.

The 30-point performance set a career high point total for Tshiebwe at Kentucky, beating out his 29 point performance in UK’s prior game against Georgia in Rupp Arena.

“I never dreamed of scoring 30 points in a game,” Tshiebwe said. “It just happened. The team is helping me and I just went down there and showed them that I can help the team in different ways.”

Tshiebwe became the first player to amass 30 points and at least 10 rebounds since Tayshaun Prince in Dec. 2001. The big man is averaging 29.5 points and 15 rebounds in his last two games.

Tshiebwe is also no stranger to securing double-doubles, with the Vanderbilt double-double being his 12th of the season, putting him second in the country for double-doubles. He is currently averaging 17 points per game and 15 rebounds per game for the season as a whole.

“I like the way the team is finding [Tshiebwe] and passing him the ball,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “He’s shooting jumpers and making free throws [and] I’m really happy to see how he’s playing.”

Tsheibwe’s presence on the court was not just felt in his own box score, however, as the entire offense seemed to shift when he was on the court as opposed to on the bench. 

The big man was only subbed out three times, but never for longer than two and a half minutes, resulting in a total of 35 minutes played.

All three times Tshiebwe left the game, Kentucky would go scoreless until he was back on the court. The Wildcats finished the game having been out-scored 13-0 with Tshiebwe off the court and amassed 6 turnovers and 5 failed shot attempts in his absences. 

Tshiebwe’s most notable substitution came with five minutes left to play in the game whilst the Wildcats boasted a 28-point lead. The visiting fans gave the big man a round of applause, assuming the departure would be his last, but he would not stay on the bench for long as the Commodores outscored Kentucky 9-0 in his absence.

The run was unable to be stifled with Vanderbilt scoring seven more points before the final buzzer, a 16-0 run to close the game. Kentucky had gone on a 14-2 run prior to Tshiebwe’s departure.

“We let go of the rope,” Calipari said. “It’s something we’ve got to get better at. I put the starters back in [because] I’m not leaving guys in [if they can’t handle it].”

Tsheibwe will look to continue his streak of dominance in Kentucky’s next game against No. 22 Tennessee this Saturday, Jan. 15, inside Rupp Arena. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 1 p.m. E.T and will air on ESPN.