John Calipari coaches up Oscar Tshiebwe after big performance vs. Providence

Nick Schultz03/17/23
Kentucky men's basketball head coach John Calipari talks with center Oscar Tshiebwe
Michael Hickey | Getty Images

It wasn’t the easiest game, but Kentucky pulled off a victory over No. 11 seed Providence to advance in the NCAA Tournament. To say Oscar Tshiebwe was a big part of the win would be an understatement.

Tshiebwe had a monster night, pulling down 25 rebounds, including 11 offensive rebounds that helped Kentucky take seven more shots than Providence en route to the 61-53 victory. He struggled on offense, scoring just eight points on 4-of-10 shooting, but his ability to rebound at a high level helped the Wildcats survive and advance.

His efforts did not go unnoticed as he stood next to head coach John Calipari after the game.

“He impacts every game,” Calipari told CBS’ Evan Washburn. “He’s got to play better defensively. He stops at times, and they catch the ball a foot from the basket. But when he fights early, he is really good. … I’m loving coaching him for two years. It’s been a ball.”

Calipari wanted to see a fight out of Tshiebwe, and he got just that as he battled through the issues offensively. But that’s when he leaned on his rebounding ability so he could help the team more than himself.

“First of all, I just want to give all the glory to God because today, I struggled on offense,” Tshiebwe said. “But I knew one thing that could not stop me was the rebounding. The rebounding gave me more chances for my team. I just came in and fight. It was about a fight.”

John Calipari on how Kentucky beat Providence: ‘Made free throws at the end’

Kentucky didn’t have its best night on offense as only two players — Antonio Reeves and Jacob Toppin — reached double figures with 22 and 18, respectively. As a team, the Wildcats shot just 36.5% from the field. But those second-chance opportunities loomed large and wound up being the difference.

However, Calipari pointed to another key stat: free throws. Kentucky went 10-for-13 from the free throw line, including some big ones late in the game. That helped offset some of the shooting woes, Calipari said.

“Made free throws at the end,” Calipari said. “Now, we missed about five straight jumpers that you’ve got to make to win those kind of games. But we made the free throws down the stretch. We fought like crazy. That’s an aggressive team.”

Now, Kentucky will turn its attention to the Round of 32 against the winner of No. 3 seed Kansas State vs. No. 14 seed Montana State.