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

The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Providence Friars Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by a score of 61-53.

The Cats started off a little slow, but they were clearly ready to start this one. Jacob Toppin asserted himself early offensively as Oscar Tshiebwe dominated the boards and Antonio Reeves exploded late on the way to a 38-32 halftime lead.

After the break, this game slowed down. Midway through the second half, the teams combined for 15 points.

However, the Cats managed to put this one away from dominating performances from Oscar Tshiebwe and Antonio Reeves.

The monkey is on their backs, as the Cats earned their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2019. They will play again on Sunday against winner Kansas State and Montana State.

Rim issues

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

Meanwhile, the brothers had no problem getting shot.

It’s an incredible problem that has arisen on the biggest stage in college basketball. Iowa State had to call a stoppage due to rim issues about to shoot 23.3 percent from the field.

These were the rims Kentucky shot at in the first half, and they ended up having a rough 1/8 shooting start.

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

Wheeler keep sitting

Sahvir Wheeler was scheduled to star in this one after practicing all week, but he didn’t speak in this one.

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

Wheeler hasn’t played since Feb. 4. He strangely missed Senior Day due to tailbone surgery after being out with an ankle injury. Big Blue Nation questioned why the operation had to take place that morning, but Calipari insisted he play again this season.

After supposedly practicing all week and still not playing, it seems the conspiracy theorists were right and Wheeler played his last game for the Cats.

Oscar Tshiebwe makes history

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

However, the reigning National Player of the Year looked like his vintage self on the glass. With Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament record 25 rebounds, Big O also became the first player in Kentucky basketball history with multiple games over 15 rebounds in the tournament. The man refused to lose again in the first round after last year’s debacle.

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

Oscar Tshiebwe has now tasted NCAA Tournament success!

Reeves carries the attack

Antonio Reeves is the straw that moves this Big Blue drink. The Cats go like Reeves, and he’s come a long way in this one, scoring a game-high 22 points to go with three boards. He also hit a huge two-run in the final minutes to ensure Kentucky stay ahead for good.

Reeves was the backbone of Kentucky’s offense all season long, and once again proved that Kentucky’s success depended on scoring.

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

Prime: The eastern region is wide open.

Because top seed Purdue just lost to 16th seed Fairleigh Dickinson.

Just keep winning! Go cats!

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