No. 10 Kentucky powers past Robert Morris 100-60 in home opener


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) rebounds the ball during the UK vs. Robert Morris basketball game on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 100-60. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

An efficient night offensively helped No. 10 Kentucky (1-1) cruise past Robert Morris (0-2) 100-60 for their first victory of the season in the Wildcats’ home opener at Rupp Arena. 

Six different Wildcats reached double-figures in scoring against the Colonials, headlined by 19 points from Kellan Grady.

Kentucky shot 57 percent from the field on 40-70 shooting while holding RMU to 37.7 percent. Where the Cats excelled was down low, as once again Oscar Tshiebwe proved that he is a man amongst boys in the paint.

Tshiebwe hauled in 20 rebounds to go along with 14 points on Friday night. The West Virginia transfer shared the love on the offensive and defensive glass, collecting 10 boards on both sides. 

“[Oscar] knew he needed one more rebound for 20,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “We want him to go get these balls.”

Robert Morris was able to gather just 24 rebounds, only four more than Tshiebwe.

“There were possessions tonight where [Tshiebwe] literally did not leave the paint for the entire possession,” RMU head coach Andy Toole said. “It makes it really hard to wait him out or box him out…he’s relentless in his pursuit, he has great instincts.”

For Tshiebwe, it doesn’t matter if it’s under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, or back at home in Rupp Arena, the big man is ready to fight for what’s his:

“My dad used to tell me, there’s no shortcuts in life, you got to work every day…I got to fight, I’ve got to work for a rebound,” Tshiebwe said. 

While Tshiebwe held the attention of the RMU forwards, Daimion Collins shined in the second half against the Colonials. 

The Atlanta, Texas native scored 14 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists in almost 21 minutes of playing time. 

“[Daimion] needs to play,” Calipari said. “I question whether I should have played him more in the Duke game.”

Against the Blue Devils on Tuesday, Collins played just two minutes, recording just a turnover and a personal foul. 

The freshman shot 7-8 from the field, the best percentage of any player on the court on Friday. 

“Daimion did good, I’m proud of that kid,” Tshiebwe said. “That’s what we need from him, a lot of energy…we need energy.”

Collins knows that he’s capable of putting out performances like Friday’s on a regular basis, but for now, he’s focused on letting his hard work pay off:

“I’m playing behind some real good players that have been here already so I got to keep working hard and wait my turn, I got my chance tonight,” Collins said. 

UK’s dynamic duo down-low allowed some floor spacing for the Wildcats’ shooters to do what they do best. Kentucky shot 12-23 from 3-point range, a 52 percent clip. 

Five Cats connected from downtown, with Grady and Davion Mintz each making four treys against the Colonials. 

For Mintz, the sixth-year guard finds comfortability in knowing that even if he doesn’t land every shot he takes, one of his bruisers down-low will be around the rim to clean up the mess.

“Nine times out of 10, Oscar is probably going to rebound [a shot,] so a miss is almost like a pass to him,” Mintz said. “It gives a lot of confidence, especially if it’s a good miss…Daimion is probably going to get a put back, that’s what we tell those guys, missed shots are passes to them.”

Another reason Kentucky’s shooters pounced on so many opportunities is point guard Sahvir Wheeler. The Georgia transfer finished the game with 12 assists and zero turnovers, earning a plus-minus of plus 27. Wheeler now has 22 assists through two games.

Nine Wildcats saw a majority of the minutes on Friday, as three players were out with injuries. 

Jacob Toppin was scratched Friday, due to a recurring shoulder injury that flared up against Duke on Tuesday. Coach Calipari said that Lance Ware is dealing with a preexisting injury, causing the forward to come out after just one minute against RMU.

Iowa Transfer CJ Fredrick is still yet to make his debut due to a nagging hamstring injury. Calipari said the shooting guard’s timetable for a return is unknown. 

Despite the dominating scoreline, Calipari knows that his group has much to work on as the early season jitters shake off.

“We still broke down on defense a bunch, we’ll watch the tape. We just got a lot of work to do in a lot of areas, to be honest,” Calipari said. 

No. 10 Kentucky will return to action on Tuesday, Nov. 16, as the now 1-1 Cats welcome the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers to Rupp Arena for game two of The Kentucky Classic. The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. E.T.