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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga edged Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe when he was a Mountaineer

Nov. 19, 2022 Updated Sat., Nov. 19, 2022 at 5:38 p.m.

Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe (34) grabs a rebound against Mount St. Mary's Malik Jefferson (42) at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Lexington, Kentucky.   (Tribune News Service)
Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe (34) grabs a rebound against Mount St. Mary's Malik Jefferson (42) at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Tribune News Service)

Gonzaga has faced Kentucky star forward Oscar Tshiebwe before, but he was wearing a different uniform at the time.

Tshiebwe, Derek Culver and Gabe Osabuohien formed an imposing frontcourt at West Virginia, which pushed the top-ranked Zags before falling 87-82 in the Jimmy V Classic in December 2020 in Indianapolis.

West Virginia’s bigs limited Drew Timme to just one field goal in the first half, but the GU forward responded with a big second half and finished with 17 points.

Tshiebwe had 14 points and nine boards for the 11th-ranked Mountaineers.

Culver, who plays for Delaware in the NBA G League, was more of the headliner in West Virginia’s lineup that season and earned first-team All-Big 12 Conference honors while averaging 14.3 points and 9.4 rebounds.

Tshiebwe and Culver combined for 17 points and 17 boards in the opening half as WVU led 39-34. The second half was a different story as Timme applied foul pressure on the Mountaineers’ bigs and GU, with Corey Kispert playing the ‘4’, battled on even terms on the boards. Andrew Nembhard, who finished with 19 points and six assists, was clutch in Gonzaga’s comeback.

“They were throttling us on the glass, throttling our offense there for a while,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “I don’t know how many teams out there are as tough and physical as West Virginia, and can bring that kind of size, strength and athleticism inside. I’m super proud of our guys for finding a way to win.”

Tshiebwe fouled out after logging 21 minutes. Timme beat Tshiebwe down the floor after a West Virginia field goal and scored while drawing Tshiebwe’s fifth foul with 7:26 remaining.

Osabuohien, who shared Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year with Baylor’s Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Oklahoma State’s Moussa Cisse last season, fouled out with 10 points in 14 minutes. Culver finished with 18 points, 15 boards and four fouls.

Tshiebwe averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds in 23 minutes as a freshman to earn second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2020. He averaged 8.5 points and 7.8 boards in just under 20 minutes per game as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Tshiebwe transferred to Kentucky and posted huge numbers last season (17.4 points and 15.2 rebounds). He was the consensus national player of the year.

The Zags went 31-0 before losing to Baylor in the national championship game. West Virginia (19-10) lost to Syracuse in the round of 32.

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