LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky senior forward Oscar Tshiebwe, last season's consensus national player of the year, was sidelined for the fourth-ranked Wildcats' season-opening 95-63 win against Howard on Monday.
The absences of all three regulars opened up a lot of minutes for others, and the results were encouraging. Antonio Reeves (22 points) and CJ Fredrick (20) were a strong backcourt tandem, and Kentucky showed depth in outscoring Howard's bench 32-15.
The Wildcats shot 55% overall against the overmatched Bison.
Tshiebwe had a procedure on his knee last month and said on media day he anticipated being ready for the opener. The Democratic Republic of the Congo native did some pregame stretching and was honored with his Naismith Trophy as Player of the Year and a commemorative basketball for reaching 1,000 career points before taking his seat on the bench.
Tshiebwe averaged 17.4 points and a nation-leading 15.1 rebounds per game last season on the way to being named the Associated Press Player of the Year and sweeping the other five national awards as college basketball's best player.
He was an AP preseason All-America selection this season. He said he returned to help Kentucky win a national championship and broaden his game ahead of next year's NBA draft.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.