The Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Providence Friars 61-53 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, thanks to a remarkable performance by Antonio Reeves, who scored 22 points, and Oscar Tshiebwe, who pulled down 25 rebounds. Eleven of Tshiebwe’s rebounds were on the offensive glass, which ensured the Wildcats remained in control as both teams struggled to score after halftime. With Kentucky dominating the offensive glass and scoring 18 second-chance points to the Friars’ two, the Wildcats finished with a 48-31 rebounding advantage. The win means Kentucky will play the winner of the Montana State-Kansas State game in the East Region on Sunday.
Despite Kentucky winning with a 36.5% field goal percentage, Providence only managed 36.2% while making just five of their 24 three-point attempts. Ed Croswell scored 16 points for the Friars, while Bryce Hopkins, who transferred from Kentucky, had a tough night, finishing with just seven points on 2-for-9 shooting, primarily being marked by Jacob Toppin.
Providence has now appeared in the NCAA tournament seven times in the past nine seasons under head coach Ed Cooley, including last year’s Sweet 16 before they fell to eventual champions, Kansas. However, Providence has only won three NCAA tournament games under Cooley. In contrast, Kentucky, who entered last year as a No. 2 seed, suffered a devastating first-round loss, which inspired them to get off to a successful start in this year’s tournament.
Although Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler was on the bench due to injury, he didn’t play, missing his tenth straight game. The Fairleigh Dickinson against Purdue game, which ended in an upset, captivated the audience in Greensboro Coliseum, with fans chanting “FDU! FDU!” during timeouts, and live look-ins being shown on the scoreboard.