LEXINGTON, Ky. – – Kentucky teammates and coaches told TyTy Washington Jr. a milestone was just around the corner, but the reality of breaking John Wall’s school record for assists took some time to get used to.
“I mean, John Wall, I watched him play, I watched a bunch of his highlights in Kentucky, I watched him a lot in the NBA,” the Wildcats freshman said of his All-Star predecessor after distributing 17 assists with scoring 17 points in Kentucky’s No.16 92-77 victory over Georgia on Saturday night.
“For me to go out there and break the record, you know, is exciting because a lot of other great playmakers have come here as well. I could be the one who said, ‘You know, I went to Kentucky. , I set the record and I hope it will be set for a minute and I hope no one will beat it.
Oscar Tshiebwe added a career-high 29 points and 17 rebounds as the Wildcats shot 63% after halftime to pull away from the Bulldogs.
Both teams looked to bounce back from close defeats, the intensity reflected in a back-and-forth first half with 10 changes of lead. Late baskets from Tshiebwe and Keion Brooks Jr. (14 points) helped the Wildcats (12-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) lead 40-37 at halftime before mounting several pushes, including a 13-4 run in four minutes that made it 73-56. They scored 22 of 35 in the second half and finished 40 of 70 (57%).
Kario Oquendo had 22 points, Aaron Cook 17 and Noah Baumann 14 for the Bulldogs (5-10, 0-2), who lost their fourth straight game.
Tshiebwe rebounded from nine points at the lowest of the season at No. 21 in LSU to achieve his 11th double-double at the break before surpassing his previous record of 25 points. The junior forward appeared to be heading for a 20-20 exit before simply helping Kentucky win the boards 31-25. He finished 13 of 21 in the field.
The post-game spotlight, however, was focused on Washington.
Taking on the point guard for Kentucky in place of injured Sahvir Wheeler, Washington made 8 of 13 on the field and broke Wall’s assists record set against Hartford on December 29, 2009 with 25 seconds left. .
Davion Mintz had 5 of 7 3-pointers and 7 of 10 total shots to finish with 19 points off the bench.
Washington’s achievement is all the more impressive given that cramps limited him in the second half of Kentucky’s 65-60 loss at the 21st LSU on Tuesday night. Not to mention, somewhat ironically, Wheeler flourished as a host.
But with Wheeler sidelined with a neck injury suffered against LSU after colliding with a hard but legal screen early on, Washington was suddenly plunged into ball-handling duties against Georgia. He simply tapped into another responsibility of playing the goalie for 36:50 and contributed five rebounds.
“Yeah, I was upset he had two turnovers,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said jokingly. “He’s a playmaker and a goalie. Whether he talks about it or is far from the ball, there is still a goalkeeper who can shoot. Was that a low-key 17 (points) he had? “
Georgia coach Tom Crean added: “I hope they weren’t surprised that we played well in the first half. I wasn’t and we had to prepare for this game with two different game plans. We had to prepare (if) Sahvir (Wheeler) was going to play and we were backing him up on the free throw line, and we had to prepare like they had three shooters on the field.
“We ended up having to keep their guards and there were very few places you could help.”
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Davion Mintz had 16 points at LSU but also made two late turnovers which led to baskets to seal the result. He quickly put that game behind him by providing the offense Kentucky needed.
“It must have paid off. I worked my tail every day, every night, getting extra shots, ”said Mintz, who was the Wildcats leading scorer last season. “I just work around the clock. It can’t rain forever – the sun has to come out eventually, so I was happy to see that.”
Wheeler, who played last season in Georgia, was dressed in street clothes and is assessed daily. Calipari said his availability for Tuesday’s game at Vanderbilt depends on his training on Monday.
Georgia’s rapid initial pace forced Kentucky to adjust, and reversing shots helped the Bulldogs stay in a few possessions. They just fell behind after the break, being outscored 46-26 in the paint.
Kentucky: Washington has skillfully filled the role of facilitator in Wheeler’s place, helping the Wildcats maintain some of their indoor-outdoor play. After starting a slow step, they quickly picked up speed and worked the ball up for a nice look that often fell.
Georgia surrenders to the state of Mississippi on Wednesday.
Kentucky is visiting Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
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