Kentucky has won four straight games and rolls into a showdown at Auburn ranked No. 12.
Yet, Oscar Tshiebwe said the unblinking scrutiny that comes externally and internally when playing for Kentucky means the team is not breezing through the season.
For an example, Tshiebwe cited freshman TyTy Washington.
“TyTy has a lot of pressure on him (and) a lot of weight on his shoulders,” Tshiebwe said. “If he’s not doing good, he seems worried a little bit.”
Tshiebwe said he offered Washington some perspective. Any player will experience adversity.
“You should never let anything affect you (in) how you want to enjoy your life (or) how you want to play basketball,” Tshiebwe said. “Just play.”
Enjoy the good times and take the bad times as motivation to put in more time and effort, Tshiebwe said.
Two other freshmen, Bryce Hopkins and Daimion Collins, struggle with lack of playing time, Tshiebwe said. Tshiebwe counseled patience. This time he used himself as an example, saying time healed his wounds.
Tshiebwe’s scoring and rebounding averages decreased from his freshman to sophomore seasons at West Virginia.
“You’ve got, like, four or five years in college to get better,” he said. “Look at me. I’m a junior. I went through a lot. … But look now. I’ve got experience. I understand the things. … You’ve got to go slow.”
30 or 30
After Tshiebwe scored a career-high 30 points at Vanderbilt, a question might have come to mind. Would he rather score 30 points or grab 30 rebounds?
“Absolutely 30 rebounds,” he said, “because rebounds can really win games.
“I saw so many NBA players, they have 50 (points). They have 60 (points). But they still lost. But the team, they have one guy with 30 rebounds, I don’t think that team has ever lost.”
Cal and Pearl
The competition between Calipari and Pearl has been so intense as to suggest there’s a personal animosity.
As a reporter for the The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Gary Parrish got to know both coaches. So, he seemed like a good person to ask how Calipari and Pearl regarded each other.
“As it ever was,” said Parrish, who now works for CBS Sports. “I think somewhere deep down, they respect each other because they are two men who have been wildly successful in their careers, and at times not without controversy. …
“Neither one of them would like to hear this, but I’ve always believed they’re more alike than they are different. They’re polarizing. They’re great talkers and salesmen and program builders. They understand their job is more than just being a basketball coach. … It is their job to create interest and generate energy. And they do it as well as anybody else in the country.”
Better than 2008?
As competitions against Calipari go, Pearl suggested that this UK-Auburn game is more compelling than the Tennessee-Memphis game in 2008 because it has league championship implications.
“I guess I would respectfully disagree with Bruce,” Parrish said.
For the 2008 game, Memphis and Tennessee were ranked first and second. Memphis was undefeated. It featured in-state rivals. It was the highest-rated college basketball game televised by ESPN.
“That one just checked a lot of boxes that this one doesn’t check …,” Parrish said in comparing Tennessee-Memphis with UK-Auburn. “Maybe I’d be more accepting (of UK-Auburn being more consequential) if this was the last regular-season game and the winner is your outright champion.”
Tennessee beat Memphis 66-62. The Vols’ record improved to 25-2. Memphis lost for the first time in 27 games.
Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith provides commentary on the radio broadcasts of the Tigers’ games. He said the game being a sellout should not be seen as distinctive. Capacity crowds are the routine for Auburn home games,
“You can’t even get standing room only tickets anymore,” Smith said.
When asked about the home-court advantage Auburn enjoys, Smith said, “It’s better than I’ve ever seen it. … (The students) are really into it. They’re sold on the program. They like the (players) because (the players) communicate with students really well.
“So, it’s like the students adopted them.”
Brad Nessler, Bill Raftery and sideline reporter Gary Parrish will call the game for CBS.