UK's Wheeler working through struggles

Feb. 4—The 2022-23 college basketball season has been a series of ups and downs for Kentucky's Sahvir Wheeler, but the senior point guard isn't focusing on the rollercoaster thus far.

Instead, he's simply trying to help the Wildcats win games.

Wheeler, who's averaging an SEC-leading 5.7 assists per game, will get his next opportunity Saturday when UK hosts conference rival Florida at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

"I've been through a lot," Wheeler said Friday. "I've been through a lot in my lifetime, and I think this season is just another one of those things you can add to my chapter. It's been a great experience, it's been a great ride. I can't wait to see what's left for us this year."

Kentucky (13-9, 6-3 SEC) enters following Tuesday's 75-66 victory at Mississippi, and the Cats have won five of their last six games — the only blemish being a 77-68 loss to No. 9 Kansas last Saturday.

Wheeler, who's also averaging 7.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest, started against the Rebels and dished nine assists with only one turnover, but he's seen his role fluctuate throughout the season. Before playing 33 minutes Tuesday, the 5-foot-9 Houston native had averaged less than 14 minutes per game in the previous four matchups.

"I'm learning about myself — how much I can handle, how much I'm willing to handle," he said.

"All I want is to be known as is a guy who has won games, who was team-first and who has impacted somebody else beyond basketball. If I do those things, I'm good. I've done my fair share of winning, and I'm going to continue to do whatever it takes to help my team win. As long as my teammates love me while I'm doing it, I'm alright."

However, Wheeler knows the task against Florida (13-9, 8-3) won't be easy as the Gators enter following a 67-54 upset victory over No. 2 Tennessee on Wednesday.

"They're confident," he said. "They're a good team. They've won some games. They've got some really good players, they play hard on the defensive end. I think the biggest challenge is continue to do what we do — continue to move the ball, continue to share it, limit live-ball turnovers and get great, quality shots."

UK's Oscar Tshiebwe, the 6-9 senior forward averaging 16.5 points and a nation-best 13.6 rebounds per game, just wants to see his teammates battle through the adversity they've faced this year.

"Every team is good," he said. "Every team can play. We just got to fight.

"But I'm just so excited. I know we started this season a little bit shaky but it's good. We were learning to win. It's better to start bad but then (get) good. We got to keep fighting."

Florida is led by 6-11 fifth-year forward Colin Castleton (15.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and 6-4 sophomore guard Will Richard (10.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg).