Kansas Jayhawks’ big men hope to slow ‘grown man’ Oscar Tshiebwe at West Virginia

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Kansas Jayhawks’ big men hope to slow ‘grown man’ Oscar Tshiebwe at West Virginia

Post by admin » Thu Feb 13, 2020 2:58 am

The Big 12’s preseason freshman of the year needed just one conference game — against Kansas — to prove worthy of all the hype.

“Oscar is a grown man. I never played against somebody like that. He’s physically strong, hard to move in the paint,” KU senior center Udoka Azubuike said of Oscar Tshiebwe, West Virginia’s 6-foot-9, 260-pound freshman from Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tshiebwe, who will anchor the middle for the Mountaineers in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. Big 12 battle against Kansas at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia, scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds while playing 35 minutes in the Jayhawks’ 60-53 Big 12 opening victory over WVU on Jan. 4 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Tshiebwe, WVU’s first McDonald’s All-American to sign with the Mountaineers since Chris Brooks in 1986, scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half to Azubuike’s six points and seven rebounds. WVU, which led by as many as 10 points early, held a 30-24 advantage at the break.

“He was so much better than anybody the first half it was a joke,” KU coach Bill Self said in calling Tshiebwe a “monster.”

“Doke was better than anybody in the game in the second half. Over the long grind, Doke was able to do some things that gave us the best chance. That was two powerful guys going against each other.”

The 7-foot, 255-pound Azubuike scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds the second half while helping hold Tshiebwe to two points and seven boards (in 17 minutes) the second stanza.

“I tried to box him out. He wasn’t moving,” said Azubuike, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots in the victory over Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers. Tshiebwe finished the game with two blocked shots.

For the season, Tshiebwe has averaged a team leading 11.5 points (on 58.1% shooting) and 9.1 rebounds (with 28 blocks in 23 games) for No. 14-ranked West Virginia (18-5, 6-4). No. 3-rated KU is 20-3, 9-1.

Tshiebwe in 10 Big 12 games has averaged 10.8 points (on 55.9% shooting) and a team-leading 9.6 rebounds (with 13 blocks). Derek Culver, a 6-10 sophomore who scored five points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the first meeting vs. KU, averages 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds a game in conference contests and 10.8 points and 8.9 boards overall.

“As far as their bigs, both are tenacious,” said KU sophomore forward David McCormack, who averages 7.3 points and 4.6 rebounds a game (with nine blocks in 21 games). In Big 12 action, McCormack has averaged 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. He’s cashed 54.7% of his shots; 45.2% of his attempts in Big 12 contests.

Azubuike for the the season averages 13.0 points (on 75.9% shooting) and 9.7 rebounds per game (with 60 blocked shots in 23 games). In Big 12 games, Azubuike averages 12.4 points (70.3% shooting) and 10.8 rebounds (with 34 blocks).

McCormack said the Jayhawks, “have to be tougher than them, have to do a better job rebounding as a team than we did last time. As a whole we need to do a better job.”

KU was outrebounded by WVU the first meeting, 44-30.

McCormack will enter Wednesday’s match up knowing Tshiebwe’s tendencies.

The two were teammates on Team Loaded AAU, which is based in Virginia.

“We just have to make sure we get into him early,” McCormack said. “We have to make sure he doesn’t feel comfortable. We can’t let him get to the scoring area. We have to make sure if there’s a loose ball he doesn’t get his hands on it first.”

“Oscar is athletic, can dunk everything, is a shot blocker. Culver is versatile. He can stretch the floor and space things out,” McCormack added.

Tshiebwe, by the way, is not a lock to earn the league’s freshman of the year award awarded at the end of the 2019-20 campaign. Texas Tech freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey averages 15.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest.

The Mountaineers, who have defeated KU five of the past six years at 14,000-seat WVU Coliseum, will take a 12-0 home record into Wednesday’s game, which has been declared a sellout, WVU’s sixth of the season.

“I heard their crowd is pretty crazy. It should be exciting,” KU freshman guard Christian Braun said. “We’ve got a Big 12 championship to win, so overall it (WVU game) is urgent. Every game matters. You can’t really slip up. We are in second place (a game behind Baylor in league race). There’s no margin for error. Every game is urgent for us.”

KU will return home to meet Oklahoma at 11 a.m. Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks will play host to Iowa State at 8 p.m. Monday in Allen.

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