Kentucky Basketball beats Providence: Final score, recap and highlights from NCAA Tournament game

The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Providence Friars 61-53 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

The Cats got off to a bit of a slow start, but they were clearly ready to start this one. Jacob Toppin asserted himself early on offense as Oscar Tshiebwe dominated the boards and Antonio Reeves exploded late en route to a 38-32 halftime lead.

After the break, the game slowed down. In the middle of the second half, the teams collected a total of 15 points.

However, the Cats managed to put this aside behind dominant performances from Oscar Tshiebwe and Antonio Reeves.

The monkey is gone as the Cats secure their first NCAA Tournament win since 2019. They play again Sunday against the winner of Kansas State and Montana State.

Rim problems

Kentucky was unable to warm up due to a rim malfunction that also plagued the Iowa State Cyclones in the previous game.

Meanwhile, the Friars had no problem getting shots off.

This is an incredible problem that arose on the biggest stage in college basketball. Iowa State had to call a stop because of rim trouble en route to shooting 23.3% from the field.

Those were the hoops Kentucky shot at in the first half, and they ended up getting a brutal 1/8 shot.

Fortunately, the Cats got hot and scored 38 points on 46% from the field and 40% from deep.

Wheeler continues to sit

Sahvir Wheeler was expected to play in this one after training all week, but he didn’t take the floor in this one.

John Calipari announced before the game that Wheeler was only 70-75% and would not play. There has been speculation for several weeks that Wheeler has played his last game in a Kentucky uniform, and that seems more likely by the day.

Wheeler hasn’t played since February 4th. He missed Senior Day as questionable due to coccyx surgery while he was out with an ankle injury. Big Blue Nation wondered why the surgery had to happen that morning, but Calipari insisted he would play again this season.

After supposedly training at full capacity all week and still not playing, it appears that the conspiracy theorists may have been right and Wheeler has played his last game for the Cats.

Oscar Tshiebwe is making history

What else can you say? Oscar. Tshiebwe. Sure, we’ve all had issues with Tshiebwe this year. His defense was poor and the surgery clearly affected his athleticism, at least early on.

However, the reigning player of the year looked his vintage self in glasses. Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament record 25 rebounds Big O also became the first player in Kentucky basketball history to have multiple 15 rebounds in a tournament. The man refused to lose again in the first round after last year’s failure.

Tshiebwe seemingly grabbed every rebound in the first half in an absolutely insane performance. He didn’t do much on the offensive end, but he didn’t need to.

Oscar Tshiebwe has now tasted NCAA tournament success!

Reeves runs the offense

Antonio Reeves is the whistle that mixes this Big Blue drink. The Cats go as Reeves goes, and he went a long way in this game, scoring a game-high 22 points with three boards. He also hit a massive two-pointer in the closing minutes to ensure Kentucky stayed ahead.

Reeves has been the mainstay of Kentucky’s offense all season, and he proved once again that Kentucky’s success depends on his scoring.

The offense wasn’t pretty, but Reeves was again the bright spot in a massive performance.

Bonus: The eastern area is open.

Because top-seeded Purdue just lost to 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson.

Just keep winning! Go Cats!

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