Last season, Lance Ware struggled to find a role for the Kentucky men’s basketball team. As some college freshmen do, Ware spent time searching for just what the UK coaching staff wanted from him.
The beginning of the 2021-22 season appeared to be the same story, as Ware continued to try to find his way. But lately, Ware has played better and seems to have settled into his role as the team’s “enforcer”, as teammate Sahvir Wheeler called him. It’s a role that Ware embraces. It’s also one that he appreciates after more than a year of hard work.
“When you have to earn something, it’s so much more rewarding than when it’s just given to you,” Ware said. “It always feels good to earn something.”
Ware has played his best basketball of late. That includes a season-high 14 minutes against Florida on Saturday, when he scored four points and grabbed a season-high seven rebounds.
The main problem for Ware is that he is playing behind National Player of the Year candidate (favorite?) Oscar Tshiebwe. Therefore, finding time in the rotation is a challenge.
|Kentucky at Tennessee|
|.290||Opp 3PT FG%||.331|
Now, Ware and his teammates travel to Tennessee to face the Volunteers for the second time this season. And there’s very little doubt that the Vols remember the first game vividly.
In that 107-79 win, Kentucky shot a blistering 78.6 percent (22 of 28) from the floor in the first half, including four of six from behind the arc. The Cats finished the game hitting 38 of 56 (67.9 percent) of their shots on their way to the win.
Associate coach Bruiser Flint knows that the crowd inside Thompson-Boling Arena will be ready for the Cats on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to be ready for it,” Flint said. “If not, they’re going to try to do the same thing to us.”
Kentucky is 21-4 on the season and 10-2 in the SEC. The Cats are now ranked fourth in the nation by the Associated Press and are in the conversation for a number one seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee is a team that has played very well of late. Since that loss to Kentucky in late January, the Vols have won seven of eight, including the last four in a row. Most recently, Tennessee topped Vanderbilt 73-64 on Saturday in Knoxville. Zakai Zeigler led UT with 16 points, while Josiah-Jordan James had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
For the season, Santiago Vescovi leads UT in scoring at 13.6 per game, while Kennedy Chandler averages 13.1 per outing.
Kentucky will be looking to extend its winning streak to seven on Tuesday night. If Ware and his team can continue to fill the roles in which they are needed, that would certainly benefit the cause.
#OscarWorthy: Tshiebwe Magnificent in Leading Cats Past Gators
Oscar Tshiebwe scored 27 points and had 19 rebounds to lead No. 5/4 Kentucky to a 78-57 win over Florida on Saturday.
Tshiebwe collected his 19th double-double of the season and his seventh in a row. The Wildcats (21-4, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) have won six straight.
TyTy Washington Jr. had 10 points for Kentucky, including eight in the second half, before leaving the game with 12:51 remaining with a lower left leg injury. He did not return.
The Gators (16-9, 6-6) saw their four-game winning streak snapped. Colin Castelton led Florida with 18 points, while Myreon Jones, who made seven 3-pointers in a win over Georgia on Tuesday, finished with just six points.
Kentucky made its first four field goals, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Grady and used a 12-0 run to produce a 20-6 lead.
Despite the sluggish start, the Gators used a 15-2 run of their own to narrow the margin to 22-21 with six minutes remaining in the first half. Kentucky regrouped and responded with six straight points – all by Tshiebwe – and led 33-28 at the half.
The Wildcats put the game away by scoring 13 of the first 15 points to open the second half.
MORE GAME NOTES
• Kentucky has won 16 in a row at Rupp Arena, including all 15 this season.
• Kentucky limited Florida to 57 points. UK is 201-9 (95.7%) under Calipari when keeping the opponent to 63 points or less, including 13-0 this season.
• Kentucky tied a season low for turnovers with only five miscues. UK turned a 10-5 difference in turnovers into a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
• Kentucky dominated the rebounding 41-25, collecting 18 offensive boards that led to a 20-7 gap in second-chance points.
The Winner is … Oscar Tshiebwe
After averaging 22.5 points and 16.5 rebounds per game in a pair of victories last week, Kentucky junior Oscar Tshiebwe was named Co-Southeastern Conference Player of the Week. It is the second time this season he has been recognized by the league office as the league’s top-performing player.
Tshiebwe also was recognized as the National Player of the Week by March Madness’ Andy Katz. It’s the second time this season Katz has honored Tshiebwe as the overall player of the week.
Tshiebwe, a National Player of the Year candidate, was instrumental in victories at South Carolina and at home against Florida.
He opened the week with 18 points and 14 rebounds at South Carolina. He pulled in 12 rebounds and scored 12 points after halftime as the Gamecocks used an early second-half surge to test the Wildcats.
Against the Gators, Tshiebwe had 27 points and 19 rebounds with 10 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. It was his team-leading eighth 20-point scoring effort of the season. Tshiebwe with five 20-point, 15-rebound games are the most for a UK player since Kenny Walker also had five such outings in 1984-85.
The Wildcats have now earned nine SEC weekly awards this season. Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks Jr. have each won SEC Player of the Week once and TyTy Washington Jr. has claimed five SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
Kentucky has dominated the weekly SEC awards with John Calipari at the helm. UK has won more weekly SEC honors (119) than any other school during the Calipari era, including 90 SEC Freshman of the Week awards and 29 SEC Player of the Week honors