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Kentucky Ends NCAA Tournament Winless Streak, Beats Providence 61-53



Remembering Last Year’s Disappointing Exit

While the Kentucky Wildcats entered Friday’s first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against Providence, the fan base was reminded of the program’s stunning exit from last season’s Big Dance. The team was defeated by Saint Peter’s in a 15-over-2 upset leaving fans desperate for postseason success. However, players like Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe didn’t let the pressure get to them, and led the Wildcats to a win.

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The Wildcats Deliver

The Kentucky Wildcats, a 6-seed in the East Region, ended a nearly four-year winless streak on March 19th, defeating 11-seed Providence 61-53 at Greensboro Coliseum. The team’s last NCAA Tournament win was against Houston in the 2019 Sweet 16, and the tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic followed by UK’s non-qualification in 2021.

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Players Leading the Wildcats Out of the Rough Patch

The seniors, Toppin and Tshiebwe, stepped up their game and led the Wildcats to success along with senior Antonio Reeves. Tshiebwe’s 25 rebounds led all players Friday and marked the most in an NCAA Tournament game since 2000. Reeves had a game-high 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting. They were instrumental in the Wildcats picking up an eight-point victory against the Friars (21-12).

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Not Perfect But Effective

Although far from perfect offensively, the team was slightly better than the Friars after halftime, shooting a combined 15 of 55 (27.3%) from the field. Coach John Calipari acknowledged the Friars as a team that makes plays and praised his team’s performance.

Tshiebwe Described as a World-class Rebounder

Oscar Tshiebwe was the highlight of the day for the team. His rebound total is the most ever by a Wildcat in an NCAA Tournament game, besting Jerry Bird who had 24 rebounds versus Iowa in 1956. Providence coach Ed Cooley compared Tshiebwe’s rebounds to the likes of NBA’s Dennis Rodman or Ben Wallace when at their peak. Cooley emphasizes that teams need to box out with two or three people to keep Tshiebwe at bay.

Season Over for Former Wildcat Bryce Hopkins

Notably, Bryce Hopkins, who transferred from UK to Providence last summer, had his season come to an end after facing his old team. Toppin spoke highly of him and mentioned how it was a challenge to guard him.

Looking Forward

Following their Friday win, Kentucky advances to the second round of the tournament, where they will face Kansas State. K-State beat Montana State 77-65 in the final game of the day at Greensboro Coliseum. The match will take place at about 2:40 pm on CBS.

Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at and follow him on Twitter at @RyanABlack.



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