Kentucky boasts nation’s top rebounder, guard with second-best assist average

By R.L. Bynum

For the second consecutive CBS Sports Classic, adjustments because of COVID-19 have altered the schedule and created a North Carolina-Kentucky matchup. This one against the No. 21 Wildcats will be at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS) in Las Vegas.

Last season in Cleveland, event organizers matched up teams with similar COVID testing protocols, and that led to the Tar Heels earning a 75–63 victory over the Wildcats after originally being scheduled to face Ohio State.

Armando Bacot scored 11 of his team-high 14 points in the second half as the Tar Heels overcame a double-digit deficit to win.

Last season, the change was made three days before. This season, it comes the day before because UCLA, the opponent Carolina was originally scheduled to face, had to cancel its second consecutive game because of COVID-19 issues.

But while the Tar Heels (8–2) take a five-game win streak into the game, the Wildcats (7–2) come off a 66–62 road loss to Notre Dame last Saturday. Kentucky’s other loss came against Duke 79–71 in the opener for both teams on Nov. 9.

Junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe (6–9, 255 pounds), who transferred from West Virginia, leads Kentucky, averaging 16.3 points and a nation-leading 14.4 rebounds per game. He also leads the country in offensive rebounding percentage (25.2%) and offensive rebounds per game (6.1). In nine games, he has 17 blocks.

Freshman guard TyTy Washington Jr. (6–4, 197) averages 13.8 points per game and has 30 assists against 16 turnovers. Junior forward Keion Brooks Jr. (7-6, 210) averages 11.8 points.

Junior guard Sahvir Wheeler (5–9, 180) is averaging 9.9 points and has 69 assists against 29 turnovers. The transfer from Georgia is averaging 7.7 assists per game, ranked second in the country.

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Graduate guard Kellan Grady, a transfer from Davidson, has a team-best 18 3-pointers and is shooting 40% from outside the arc.

This is the fourth time UNC and Kentucky have met in the CBS Sports Classic. UNC won 75–63 in Cleveland in 2020 and Kentucky won 80–72 in 2018 in Chicago before last season’s meeting.

The Tar Heels lead the all-time series 25–16, winning two of the last three matchups beginning with the 75–73 regional-final win in Memphis on March 26, 2017, when Luke Maye hit the game-winner.

Kentucky coach John Calipari is 7–4 against Carolina.

Kentucky season statistics

UNC season statistics

DateScore, record/
day, time, TV
LocationOpponent
November (4–2)
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 3 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3–2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 18 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4–2HomeUNC Asheville
December (4–0, 1-0 ACC)
172–51 win, 5–2HomeX — Michigan
579–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACCRoadGeorgia Tech
1180–63 win, 7–2HomeElon
1474–61 win, 8–2HomeFurman
18Saturday, 5:30, CBSLas VegasZ — No. 21 Kentucky
21Tuesday, 7, ACCNHomeAppalachian State
29Wednesday, 7, ESPN2HomeVirginia Tech
January
1Saturday, noon, ACCNRoadBoston College
5Wednesday, 9, ESPN2RoadNotre Dame
8Saturday, 1, ESPNHomeVirginia
15Saturday, 8, ACCNHomeGeorgia Tech
18Tuesday, TBA, ESPNRoadMiami
22Saturday, 8, ACCNRoadWake Forest
26Wednesday, RSNHomeBoston College
29Saturday, 2, ACCNHomeN.C. State
31Monday, 7, ESPNRoadLouisville
February
5Saturday, 6, ESPNHomeNo. 2 Duke
8Tuesday, 9, ESPN or ESPN2RoadClemson
12Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2HomeFlorida State
16Wednesday, 8, ACCNHomePittsburgh
19Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadVirginia Tech
21Monday, 7, ESPNHomeLouisville
26Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadN.C. State
28Monday, 7, ESPNHomeSyracuse
March
5Saturday, 6, ESPNRoadNo. 2 Duke
8–
12
ACC TournamentBrooklyn
RSN — regional sports networks; ACCN — ACC Network; X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge;
Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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