Oscar Tshiebwe dominates season debut but Kentucky is upset with 2OT loss

INDIANAPOLIS — Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe made an impact Tuesday when he finished his first game of the season after offseason knee surgery with 22 points and 18 rebounds.

But the team also felt the Wooden Award winner’s absence when he fouled in first overtime in Michigan State’s 86-77 double overtime win over No. 4 Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

“It was the coach’s decision [to allow me to play]Tshiebwe said Tuesday after missing the team’s first two games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery. “I went through rehab and everything was fine. I just wanted to play a little. The game was really tough and I had to play. I feel really good.”

Tshiebwe wasted no time showing the crowd, which included a host of NBA scouts and executives, including Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers, at Indianapolis’s Gainbridge Fieldhouse why he has the chance to work with Ralph Sampson Jr. as the only double winner to keep up with the wood prize.

Along with his double-double, he also finished with four blocks and finished 4-for-4 from the free throw line.

But the Kentucky star also demonstrated some of the challenges that come with missing a month of training following his surgery in October.

He had five turnovers. He opted for a hard jump shot that rattled off the rim towards the end of the rule. He was also lost in an inbounds game at Michigan State when Malik Hall scored in the closing seconds of regulation and sent the game into first overtime.

Kentucky were surpassed 17-7 after Tshiebwe committed his fifth foul with 32 seconds left in the first overtime.

“Oscar isn’t Oscar yet,” said Tom Izzo after the game.

John Calipari said the team played together for the first time on Tuesday due to injuries. And Daimion Collins lost time with his father’s death. Calipari said all of that affected the Wildcats in a tight game.

“We weren’t ready,” he said after the game. “I told them in the dressing room: ‘We are not ready for teams that are ready to end the games at the end.’ They did better than us.”

But Tuesday’s game also allowed Michigan State to shine on an aircraft carrier in San Diego four days after a 64-63 loss to No. 2 Gonzaga. The Spartans don’t have an NBA lottery pick on their list. However, Joey Hauser (23 points) and co. played with the toughness that defined Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State and secured a win over a Kentucky team with Final Four potential.

Izzo said he thought the Spartans got Kentucky at a time when the team is still trying to adjust to Tshiebwe’s return.

“This is a really good team and they’re going to be a great team, so all Kentucky fans, don’t jump ship,” he said. “With [Tshiebwe] I’ve just come back, it’s not easy bringing a guy like him in and everything is going smoothly.”

Tshiebwe went into play after the first TV timeout at 14:55 as Kentucky led 6-4 over Michigan State.

The return of Tshiebwe, who is reportedly set to earn a seven-figure sum from name, image and likeness deals this season, extended a strong week for Calipari, who received a commitment from DJ Wager on Monday.

Wagner, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2023 according to ESPN, chose Kentucky over Louisville, his main competitor.

Kentucky will now face South Carolina State on Thursday before traveling to Spokane, Wash. on Sunday to face No. 2 Gonzaga.

After Tuesday’s game, Tshiebwe said his team will continue to grow now that they are healthy.

“We prepared and made a few mistakes,” said Tshiebwe. “We will work on it and get better for the next game.”

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