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Kentucky outlasts Providence, 61-53

Kentucky will face Kansas State on Sunday, March 19 at 2:40 p.m.
NCAA Providence Kentucky Basketball
Posted at 9:23 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-18 01:10:31-04

GREENSBORO, NC (BBN TONIGHT) — The day finally arrived. Six-seed Kentucky and 11-seed Providence faced off inside Greensboro Coliseum in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The March Madness starting five consisted of Jacob Toppin, Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, and Antonio Reeves.

Providence controlled the tip, with Ed Croswell opening the game down low in the post. Wallace was the first to the free throw line, sinking one for the Cats, but UK's first field goal didn't fall until almost three minutes into the game. Despite the early offensive struggle for the Cats, Tsheibwe collected six boards in the first five minutes.

Providence showed aggressive defense by forcing the Cats to turnover the ball resulting in three fast-break layups for the Friars.

Kentucky broke away with the largest lead of five, at 26-21.

It didn't last long due to a Devin Carter steal and push ahead to Corey Floyd, Jr.

Kentucky caught fire and went on a 10-0 run with two clutch 3-pointers from Reeves. Toppin asserted his dominance with a huge block and a layup during the run.

The Cats maintained the lead going into halftime up, 38-31.

Tshiebwe had a rebounding personal best in the first half of 13 - eight being offensive. UK overall outrebounded the Friars 35-13 in the first. "Flamethrower" Reeves shot 4/7 from three in the first half, leading the Wildcats with 14 points. Toppin had 12, shooting 6/11 from the field with two assists.

The Cats held the Friars to 27% from the 3-point line in the first half while shooting 40%.

The second half started slow for Kentucky, not scoring their first basket until four minutes into the half by a floater from Wallace. He rattled off the next four for the Cats.

Kentucky hit a six-minute scoring drought, but Reeves was able to bail the team out to keep the 7-point lead. Tshiebwe continued his dominant rebounding performance, collecting an offensive board to assist Chris Livingston.

With 54 seconds left on the clock, Toppin stretched the lead to double digits after hitting two free throws.

Tshiebwe made history as the first Kentucky Men's Basketball player to have multiple NCAA tournament games with 15 boards since 1958. He finished with 25, accompanied by eight points. Reeves led the offensive effort with 22 points, 5-9 from the 3-point line. Toppin finished with 18 points, six rebounds, two assists, and a block.

One of the main headlines of this battle was reuniting Providence's Bryce Hopkins with his former teammates of the Kentucky Wildcats. The sophomore averaged 14.2 points per game and 8.5 rebounds on the season, Hopkins was held to seven points and eight rebounds. Croswell led for the Friars with 14. Kentucky outrebounded the Friars 48 to 32.

Kentucky will face Kansas State on Sunday, March 19 at 2:40 p.m. on CBS.

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