The No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats will be hoping to regain their shooting touch when they entertain Robert Morris in their home opener Friday night in Lexington, Ky.
The Wildcats (0-1) shot only 37.7 percent from the field in losing their opener to Duke, 79-71, Tuesday in Madison Square Garden. Kentucky started the game by missing its first five shots.
“We definitely fought,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said afterward. “We were in the game — 37.7 percent from the field. That’s not good, and we still were in the game.”
Only one Wildcat managed to convert more than half of his attempts. Oscar Tshiebwe made good on 8 of his 14 shots on his way to a team-high 17 points. A junior transfer from West Virginia, he also had 19 rebounds, a school record for a player in his Kentucky debut, for his 13th career double-double.
Sahvir Wheeler scored 16 points, but needed 15 attempts for his six field goals. A junior transfer from Georgia, Wheeler had 10 assists for his ninth career double-double.
TyTy Washington, who scored 33 points in the two exhibition wins over Kentucky Wesleyan and Miles College, struggled with only nine points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Calipari took responsibility for Washington’s struggles, saying he had asked the freshman guard to shoot more after he put up only 22 attempts in the two exhibitions. He was 6 of 6 on 3-point attempts those games, but missed his only two tries from behind the arc against Duke.
“And I just said to him, ‘You know, kid, you don’t have to make every shot. You just can’t miss ’em all. You got to make one or two,’ ” Calipari said. “And he just was missing a bunch of shots. And if you watched him play, that’s not him.”
The biggest plus for Kentucky was in offensive rebounding. Of Tshiebwe’s 19 boards, 12 came at his offensive end, helping Kentucky to a 19-8 advantage in second-chance points.
Robert Morris (0-1) dropped its opener 69-59 Wednesday night at UCF in the second of three road games to start the season. This will be the Colonials’ second trip to Lexington since they pulled the stunning 59-57 upset of the Wildcats in the 2013 NIT.
“I feel like some of the guys on our team weren’t even born when that game was played,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole told triblive.com. “It feels like it’s getting to be distant from us.”
That game was played in Pittsburgh because Kentucky’s Rupp Arena home was not available. Robert Morris lost the rematch of that game 87-49 the next season in Rupp.
Toole welcomes back two starters, Kahliel Spear (9.9 points, 1.3 blocks per game) and Kam Farris (8.3 ppg, 46.1 percent 3-point shooting), and adds seven transfers: Rasheem Dunn (St. John’s), Ferron Flavors Jr. (Oklahoma State), Jaron Williams (UT Martin), Justin Winston (St. Bonaventure), Mattia Acunzo (Toledo). Brandon Stone (La Salle) and guard Michael Green III (Bryant).
Like Kentucky, Robert Morris struggled from the field in the loss to UCF, going 20 of 61 (32.8 percent). Dunn and returnee Enoch Cheeks scored 12 points each to lead the Colonials in scoring while Spear added 10 points. Cheeks, a sophomore guard, also had 10 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double.
–Field Level Media