UK’s Howard, Tshiebwe both on Wooden Award late season Top 20

Junior forward leads the country in rebounding; senior guard averaging 20.4 points, 7.7 rebounds

 Tshiebwe also been named to the Lute Olson Watch List for its player of the year honors. The Sporting News and The Athletic have both tabbed Tshiebwe to their midseason All-America Teams, and he’s among 10 finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year honor.

Kentucky is one of two Southeastern Conference programs included in the top 20 late season favorites for the Wooden Award’s Player of the Year. All 20 players on the Wooden Watch were named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 earlier this month.

The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2022 John R. Wooden Award Men’s Player of the Year. Players not chosen to the late season list are still eligible for the Wooden Award national ballot.

The national ballot consists of 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average.

Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players, who have qualified as meeting the standards set forth by Coach Wooden and the Wooden Award Steering Committee. Voting will open prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance during early round games. The Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2022 John R. Wooden Award will be presented following the NCAA Tournament in April.

Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is the only winner in program history. He claimed the honor in 2012 after helping lead Kentucky to its eighth national championship in program history.

Tshiebwe has made a national name for himself with rebounding numbers that haven’t been seen in decades at the Division I college basketball level.

Through games on Jan. 29, Tshiebwe led the country in rebounds per game (15.1), offensive rebounds per game (5.1), offensive rebounding percentage (20.1%) and defensive rebounding percentage (36.5%).

Tshiebwe has five 20 or more rebounding efforts, tying Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan for the most by a major-conference player since 1996-97. Only one other player has at least two such games.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo native has amassed 317 total rebounds on the season, 46 more than the next closest player this season.

There’s certainly been more than one defining moment for Tshiebwe as he leads the Wildcats in scoring (16.3), rebounding (15.1), steals (1.7), blocks (1.5) and field-goal percentage (61.5%).

Included in his five 20-rebound games was a record-setting 28-board performance in a dominating win over Western Kentucky. The 28 boards crushed the Rupp Arena record of 21 previously held by Shaquille O’Neal.

Not only did Tshiebwe record more rebounds than WKU’s entire team – and against the tallest player in the country, Jamarion Sharp, who stands at 7-foot-5 – his total tied for the sixth-most rebounds in UK history and the most in more than 45 years, when Mike Phillips corralled 28 caroms in an overtime game vs. Tennessee on Jan. 10, 1976. They are the most for a Wildcat in a regulation-length game in more than 52 years, when Dan Issel grabbed 29 rebounds vs. LSU on Feb. 22, 1969. According to STATS, his 28 rebounds are also the most in Division I college basketball since Kendall Gray from Delaware State recorded 30 at Coppin State on March 5, 2015.

Against Mississippi State on Jan. 25, Tshiebwe logged 21 points and 22 rebounds to become the first UK player to have a 20-20 game since Phillips achieved the feat twice in 1976.

Tshiebwe is looking to become the first Division I player to average at least 15.0 points per game and at least 15.0 rebounds per game since Drake’s Lewis Lloyd and Alcorn State’s Larry Smith each did during the 1979-80 season.

The last UK player to average at least 14.0 rebounds per game in a season was Ed Beck in 1956-57. Bob Burrow owns the Kentucky single-season record of 17.7 rebounds per game, which was set during the 1954-55 season. Only two players under John Calipari have averaged double-figure rebounds for a season: Anthony Davis (2012) and Julius Randle (2014) both hauled in 10.4 per game.

Put another way, Tshiebwe is responsible for 36.3% of all of UK’s rebounds this season. Taking away team rebounds, that percentage jumps to 40.0%.

The 255-pound forward is no pushover offensively either. With improved post work and the second-chance opportunities he is creating for himself on the glass, Tshiebwe is shooting 61.5% from the floor and has scored 20 or more points seven times, including a career-high 30 points at Vanderbilt. He was the first UK player to tally a 30-point, 10-rebound game since Patrick Patterson had 33 points and 11 rebounds against Tennessee State on Dec. 22, 2008. Tshiebwe is also the first Wildcat to score at least 29 points in consecutive SEC games since Kenny Walker in February 1985.

Tshiebwe was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, the NCAA March Madness National Player of the Week by Andy Katz, and the SEC Co-Player of the Week on Dec. 27.

Tshiebwe and the Wildcats return home to face Vanderbilt on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by SEC Network.

Meanwhile, University of Kentucky women’s basketball senior guard Rhyne Howard is having an amazing season and is getting national attention as one of 20 players onRhyne Howard Wooden Award Midseason Watch List Graphic Horizontal the Wooden Award Top 20 Late Season Watch List.

The Los Angeles Athletic Club announced the John R. Wooden Award® presented by Wendy’s® Late Season Top 20 Watch List Monday evening on ESPNU. Chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts based on their performances during the 2021-22 season thus far, the list comprises of 20 student-athletes who are front-runners for the sport’s most prestigious honor.

The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2022 John R. Wooden Award Women’s Player of the Year presented by Wendy’s. Players not chosen to the late season list are still eligible for the Wooden Award™ National Ballot. The National Ballot consists of 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they meet or exceed the qualifications of the Wooden Award. Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players when voting opens prior to the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance during early round games. The Wooden Award All American Team™ will be announced the week of the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2022 John R. Wooden Award will be presented by Wendy’s following the NCAA Tournament in April.

So far this season, Howard is leading Kentucky by averaging 20.4 points per game, earning 7.4 rebounds per game with 61 assists, 51 steals, 24 blocks and a team best 32 3-pointers. Howard ranks high nationally in several categories, including 14th nationally in points per game and 20th nationally in steals per game. Howard is top-five in the SEC in points per game, total points, field-goals made, free-throw percentage, steals per game, steals and minutes played per game.

Her best game this season came against top-15 ranked Georgia, scoring 30 points in the game, including 22 in the second half. She scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. On top of scoring UK’s last 10 points in the game, she scored 13 of UK’s last 17 points overall. She also shined against West Virginia, when she scored 27 points, going 5-of-7 from long range with six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Against Winthrop, Howard joined an exclusive club by becoming the third player in UK history to record a triple-double in a game. She scored 22 points against the Eagles with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, adding five steals.

Howard has been playing at another level the last few games with four straight games of 20+ points. She has recorded a double-double in four of the last five games for UK, including a season-best 12 rebounds at No. 12 LSU. Against Auburn, she scored 29 points with nine rebounds, hitting five 3s. The guard scored 17 points in the fourth quarter against Auburn to help propel UK to the victory.

Howard’s career is already one of the best in program history. In 101 career games, Howard has hit at least one 3 in 87 games, posted 10 or more points in 90 career games, 15+ in 74 games, 20+ in 56 games, 25+ in 30 games and 30+ in eight games. The guard has led UK in scoring in 66 career games, in rebounding in 54 career games, in assists in 37 career games, in steals in 43 games and blocks in 40 career games. She has 23 career double-doubles.

For her career, Howard has scored 2,023 career points sitting second in UK history in points scored. Against Vanderbilt, Howard scored her 2,000 career points, becoming just the third Wildcat in school history – both men’s and women’s – to record 2,000 or more points in 100 games or less. She joined Hall of Famers Dan Issel and Valerie Still in that category. Howard ranks second in school history in career scoring average at 20.0, while she is fourth in field-goals made with 706, third in career 3s made with 246 and fourth in career 3-point field-goal percentage at 37.2. She is also fourth in UK history in steals per game at 2.396.

Howard’s junior season was one for the record books at Kentucky, earning first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, United States Basketball Writers Association and Wooden Award. She was one of four finalists for the WBCA Wade Trophy, one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, one of four finalists for the 2021 Naismith Trophy and a finalist for the 2021 Cheryl Miller Award. For the second year in a row, Southeastern Conference coaches named Howard the SEC Player of the Year, while she earned All-SEC First Team honors for the third straight season.

Howard – who was the only player in the nation in 2020-21 to average over 20 points per game with at least 7.3 rebounds per game, 90 assists and 60 steals – had a great junior season for the Wildcats, averaging 20.7 points per game with 7.3 rebounds per game. She hit a team-best 56 3-pointers and had 91 assists, 61 steals and 19 blocks. Although her scoring average was two points less than it was in 2019-20, Howard showed she is an all-around player and not just a scorer, upping her rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game average from both her freshman and sophomore seasons.

The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, played 24 games last season with nearly half of those coming against top-25 ranked opponents. In those games, Howard showed she is the best player in the country with impressive numbers. In 11 games against ranked opponents, Howard averaged 22.3 points per game, hitting 47.1 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3 with 6.7 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game. Howard had four 30+ scoring games during the season with three coming against top-25 ranked teams.

One of her best performances of the year was when she scored 33 points at No. 12 Mississippi State, hitting four 3s with 10 rebounds and six assists. She scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Bulldogs, scoring 25 of UK’s last 31 points, including 10 of 14 in overtime. Other impressive performances on the biggest stage include 32 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against No. 5 South Carolina and 24 points with four 3s, 10 rebounds and four assists against No. 10 Arkansas. She also posted 22 points against No. 13 Indiana and at No. 8 Texas A&M. Howard took over for Kentucky at No. 17 Georgia with 27 points, four rebounds, four steals, two assists and went 4-of-4 from 3 and then followed with a 33-point performance against the Bulldogs in the SEC Tournament.

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