Oscar Tshiebwe scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in Kentucky’s 85-57 win over Central Michigan Monday night. (Mike Cyrus Photo)
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — It was a blowout and not even close.
Kentucky notched its sixth consecutive victory with an 85-57 rout of Central Michigan Monday night. A month that began with a 79-71 loss to top-ranked Duke in the Champions Classic, the Wildcats racked up a half-dozen victories while dealing with a mixture of injuries and illness.
All six victories — by double digits — provided challenges in their own way, but the No. 9 Wildcats put it all together in the blowout from start to finish over the Chippewas.
“There were stretches we were really good,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
One of those stretches came in the first half. Kentucky (6-1) made 11 of its first 12 shots from the field and outscored the Chippewas 23-2 in a span of five minutes, ending any hopes of a potential upset. The Chippewas (1-4) have yet to play a home game this season and appeared homesick and wore down against the Wildcats.
“We came out a little nervous,” Central Michigan and former Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said. “That attributed a lot to them. We dug ourselves a big hole. I thought we settled down and did some good things in the second half.”
Barbee, whose squad has lost to No. 3 Gonzaga (107-54) and Bellarmine (78-69) in back-to-back fashion last week, was impressed with the Wildcats in his return to Rupp Arena, where he spent the previous seven seasons under Calipari. He also played for Calipari at Massachusetts.
“They’re just as physically imposing as Gonzaga all across the floor,” Barbee said. “They’re on Gonzaga’s level. … They’ve got a fantastic team. They will do a lot of damage this year.”
In Barbee’s first live view of the Wildcats, forward Oscar Tshiebwe had a double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while TyTy Washington added 15 points as 10 players entered the scoring column for Kentucky. Barbee praised the performance by Tshiebwe.
“He’s a coach’s dream and he impacts the game without ever having the ball,” Barbee said. “He’s a load defensively on the defensive end of the floor and obviously what he does in the backboard — it has not been seen in years if not in decades in college basketball.”
Calipari, now 18-1 against his former assistant coaches, spoke with Barbee prior to the contest and knows what he’s going through in the beginning phases of a rebuilding project in Mount Pleasant.
“I know it’s a process when you’re rebuilding, like he is,” he said. “We talked about it.
The Kentucky coach was more concerned about his team’s development as opposed to a potential threat from the Chippewas.
“I’m worried about my team playing the right way,” Calipari said. “I’m worried about my team fighting, my team being consistent for 40 minutes and how we’re going to play and then, we have to figure each other out.”
Calipari will get that chance this week. Now that November is almost over, Calipari is ready for a much-ended eight-day break before playing Southern Dec. 7.
“It comes at a great time,” Calipari said. “We have been beat and so we need a couple of days (off).”
Gametracker: Southern at Kentucky, Tuesday, Dec. 7 p.m.. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.