Antonio Reeves scored 22 points and Oscar Tshiebwe pulled down 25 rebounds in an overpowering display, helping Kentucky beat Providence 61-53 in Friday night’s first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Tshiebwe’s rebounding work was the second-most in the tournament since 1973, and 11 of his rebounds came on the offensive glass — a big factor in the sixth-seeded Wildcats (22-11) staying in control as both offenses grinded to a halt after halftime.
With the two-time Associated Press All-American grabbing just about every loose ball, Kentucky finished with a 48-31 rebounding advantage, controlling the offensive glass (plus-10) and dominating in second-chance points for an 18-2 edge.
On a day when neither team shot well after halftime, that boardwork was vital to sending Kentucky on to face the Montana State-Kansas State winner Sunday in the East Region — a big turnaround from last year’s surprising first-round exit against 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s.
Reeves hit five 3-pointers to lead the offense, while Jacob Toppin had his own big game with 18 points. Tshiebwe managed eight points, but he was still an indomitable force that the 11th-seeded Friars (21-12) just couldn’t manage.
When it was over, Tshiebwe emerged from a TV postgame interview by gleefully skipping his way off the court toward the locker room.
Kentucky won while shooting just 36.5%.
Ed Croswell scored 16 points for Providence, which shot just 36.2% while making 5 of 24 3-pointers.
The game set up a reunion between Providence star Bryce Hopkins and the Kentucky program he left behind as a transfer in search of a bigger role. Hopkins came in averaging 16.1 points, but finished with just seven on 2-for-9 shooting in a tough night while being chased primarily by Toppin.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
Get more from College Basketball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more