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CATS Down Friars to Advance in NCAA

Antonio Reeves - photo by Danny Vaughn - Bluegrass Sports Nation

Kentucky opens the NCAA tournament with a 61-53 win against the Providence Friars.

Antonio Reeves leads Kentucky with twenty-two points making 5-9 3PT FG, Toppin scored 18 points, Tshiebwe grabbed 25 rebounds.

GREENSBORO – March 17, 2023 – DAVID LEVERIDGE – Bluegrass Sports Nation

One year ago today, the world watched in disbelief as Saint Peter’s just pulled one of the biggest upsets in the NCAA Tournament defeating Kentucky 85-79 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.  Kentucky has not won an NCAA tournament game since 2019 and many fans were disappointed with Kentucky’s performance on the floor this season.  Today Kentucky opened the NCAA tournament as a six seed, and played the Providence Friars and former Wildcat Bryce Hopkins in the opening round.  Kentucky prevailed with a hard fought 61-53 victory against the Friars in a very hard fought game, that wasn’t decided until the final minute of regulation.

Kentucky led the majority of the game as the starting five scored every point of the game.  Three Wildcat players played superb games led by Antonio Reeves who finished the game with a game high of twenty-two points while making (5-9) from behind the ARC.  Going into todays matchup the key matchup that gathered the most attention was the battle between Jacob Toppin and former CAT Bryce Hopkins who know plays for the Friars.  Toppin dominated Hopkins as Toppin finished the game with 18 points and six rebounds, compared to Hopkins seven points and eight rebounds.  Oscar Tshiebwe was dominant in the post grabbing twenty- five rebounds and contributed with eight points. 

1st Half

In the first half of the game the game stayed close when Kentucky led Providence 24-21 midways through the half.  Tshiebwe was dominate in the post grabbing 13 rebounds against the Providence Friars defenders.  Tshiebwe showed a fight and determination that the BBN love and helped Kentucky keep offensive possessions alive, while limiting the Friars to a single shot.  Providence was able to keep the game close as Kentucky had multiple turnovers leading to fast break points on the other end. Providence amazed the crowd with a one hand lob completed by Corey Floyd Jr, Providence trailed 26-25 in a pivotal moment of the game.  Kentucky finished the half on a 12-6 run and led Providence 38-31 at intermission.  Reeves sparked the CATS making multiple three point baskets making 4-7 scoring 14 points in the first half, At one point during the fist half Reeves scored six unanswered points.

2nd half  Providence continued to keep the game close opening the half with a four to zero run.  Providence began to feed the post throwing the ball to Ed Croswell who used his strength and positioning to get buckets and had several spectacular dunks during the half.  Kentucky was able to finally create a little separation when Reeves made another 3 PT Basket and extended the lead to nine points, Kentucky 46- Providence 37.  Providence wasn’t going down without a fight responding with a 3 PT basket and again the lead was cut to five points.  The game was very much undecided with under five minutes to go, Kentucky maintained a slim four point lead 50-46 and Providence had momentum when Croswell sparked the Friars with a two hand slam.  Tshiebwe continued to dominate the boards keeping possessions alive was critical down the stretch not allowing Providence to cut into the lead.  With under two minutes remaining in the game Kentucky had a comfortable eight point lead and grew the lead to ten points in the final minute of regulation.  Kentucky hangs on to defeat the Providence Friars 61-53 in the opening round of the NCAA East Region.

Kentucky will move onto the second round of the NCAA Tournament playing the winner of Kansas State and Montana State on Sunday March 19th, 2023, game time has yet to be announced.  As painful as last years devastating loss to Saint Peters was, today’s victory was much needed by the Big blue Nation as it has been nearly four years since Kentucky has won a game in the tournament.  Fans were excited, passionate and filled the Greensboro Coliseum with a Sea of Blue, having the majority of the fans attending the game.

Stats: Game Stats.

  • Kentucky 61                                                         Providence 53.
  • FG % 23-63 36.5%                                               21-58 36.2%
  • 3PT FG  5-16 31.3%                                             5-24 20.8 %
  • Rebounds 48                                                       31
  • Assists 10                                                             12

Player Stats Kentucky

  • Jacob Toppin 18 points, six rebounds, FT 6-6, 2 assists, 1 turnover.
  • Chris Livingston 6 points, six rebounds, one turnover.
  • Oscar Tshiebwe 8 points, twenty-five rebounds, 2 assists.
  • Antonio Reeves 22 points, shooting 5-9 from 3 PT FG, 3 rebounds.
  • Cason Wallace 7 points, four rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover.

Player Stats Providence

  • Ed Croswell 16 points, five rebounds, 1 turnover, 2 steals.
  • Bryce Hopkins 7 points, eight rebounds, two assists, four turnovers
  • Jared Bynum 9 points, 2 rebounds.

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