Column: Kentucky’s loss to Michigan State has a silver lining


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) dribbles up the court during the No. 4 Kentucky vs. Michigan State Champions Classic mens basketball game on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Michigan State won 86-77 in the second overtime. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor

The Wildcats had plenty of missed opportunities on Tuesday against the Michigan State Spartans, shooting only 39% in field goals and 67% from the free throw line.

That said, it’s hard to be frustrated with the numbers when the game against the Spartans marked the first time the full Kentucky roster was able to play.

With the number of players who missed the first few games due to injury or personal circumstances, seeing “La Familia” all together on the court reminds fans of all of the talent and potential this season brings.

The game marked the first appearance of the regular season for reigning consensus National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe and sophomore Daimion Collins. 

Collins, despite only putting up two points during the game, played for the first time since the unexpected passing of his father Ben Collins. Just the fact that Collins is back with the team and getting in minutes is something to be optimistic about.

It was not clear going into the game what fans were going to see from Tshiebwe during the game as he made his debut on the court coming off of knee surgery just weeks prior, but his performance reflected anything but an athlete recovering from surgery.

Tshiebwe played 34 minutes against Michigan State and led the scoring for Kentucky, accumulating 22 points and 18 rebounds. 

“He had arthroscopic surgery,” head coach John Calipari said. “He was out for four weeks. They said it could be six weeks. After watching him practice, I said I think you could have played last week, which would have been three weeks.”

The 6’9” forward truly could not have had a better first game back on the court, blocking shots and hustling for rebounds like he hadn’t been absent for a handful of games.

“For Oscar to do what he did without playing for four weeks and never practice. Come on. That’s ridiculous,” Calipari said.

In addition to Collins and Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler also only recently made his regular season appearance last week against Duquesne after coming off of a minor injury as well.

With the bumps Kentucky has suffered so far, it is a win for the team to have these players back earlier in the season than many had expected.

This third game into the season is when the Cats finally got to experience what playing with their full roster would be like when other college basketball teams have been practicing like that for weeks.

“This is our first time being together,” Wheeler said. “It’s going to take a little while just to get used to each other and the team to know each other and to feel each other out.”

With all of the Wildcats healthy and present at practice, Kentucky can now begin to showcase all of the talent the team has in store. 

“We got a lot of stuff to figure out. We really do, but I like this team. I like us defensively. I like us rebounding. I like us shooting, playmaking and a lot of good stuff” Calipari said.

Kentucky may not have won, but they led for 33 minutes against Michigan State with a team that has quite literally not practiced together in weeks. Give it some time and they will look a whole lot different on the court.

The Wildcats make their way back home to Lexington to play South Carolina State on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. EST inside Rupp Arena. The game can be streamed online at ESPN+ or watched live on SEC Network.