WVU freshman Oscar Tshiebwe wows Jayhawks in his Big 12 debut

LAWRENCE, Kan. — West Virginia’s 60-53 loss at Kansas in the Big 12 opener was not a lost cause.

In his first game against a conference opponent in the league’s toughest venue, freshman Oscar Tshiebwe was very much a man with a 17-point, 17-rebound double-double.

Kansas senior center Udoka Azubuike has faced plenty of stiff competition in his four years, but the NCAA’s top field-goal shooter already has Tshiebwe atop his list.

“Oscar, [he’s] a grown man,” said Azubuike, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. “I’ve never played against somebody like that.

“He’s hard to move in the paint. I tried to box him out and he wasn’t moving.”

Kansas coach Bill Self, who is usually hoarding McDonald’s All-Americans for his own team, is also enamored with Tshiebwe.

“We had to play small in order to have a chance to drive it in there,” Self said. “We didn’t play very tough at all in the first half. Oscar just dominated.

“You can’t simulate [his physicality] in practice. Those weren’t fouls. Oscar, he’s a monster.”

West Virginia Mountaineers forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) swings on the basket after dunking the ball during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.

Though he’s one of the team’s youngest players, Tshiebwe rarely tries to do more than he’s capable of — which is why he’s already a Bob Huggins favorite.

“The beautiful thing about Oscar is that Oscar’s Oscar. He doesn’t try to be anybody else,” Huggins said. “He’s really good at what he does and you don’t have to worry about him going out and dribbling the ball between his legs and losing it or jacking up threes like some guys in his situation would do.

“Oscar knows who he is. Oscar is happy with who he is. And he’s pretty damn good at who he is.”

As much as everyone else was impressed by him, Tshiebwe would have liked even more out of himself. He scored just two points in the second half as the game slipped away from West Virginia.

“I have no idea what changed,” Tshiebwe said. “The first half I was hot. The second half, I don’t know. I didn’t get that much involved.”

For Tshiebwe, the trip to Kansas was a learning experience in more ways than one. Allen Fieldhouse is by far the most intense environment he’s played in as a visitor.

“I learned a lot,” Tshiebwe said. “College basketball is tough. You’ve got to use your head. You have to be tougher to play at this level.”

It’s also the first time in his college career that he went up against a bigger foe in the 7-foot, 270-pound Azubuike.

“It’s not easy to guard someone like that,” Tshiebwe said. “I spoke to him a little bit. I said, ‘You’re tough to guard.’ And he told me ‘You’re good. Keep doing what you’re doing.'”

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