It has been since 2019 when Tyler Herro drilled the game-winning three against Houston since the Kentucky Wildcats won an NCAA Tournament.
They entered Friday night’s matchup against former Wildcat Bryce Hopkins and the Providence Friars looking to put an end to that drought.
It was not a fast start for either team in this one and at the first media timeout, the Cats were trailing 6-5.
At the halfway point, Kentucky found themselves down 16-15 after a tough layup by Chris Livingston.
However, thanks to the rebounding efforts of Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky was dominating the glass and started to gain momentum.
A floater by Antonio Reeves, a layup by Jacob Toppin, and back-to-back threes by Reeves gave the Cats a 36-25 lead forcing Providence to take a timeout with 1:42 to go.
Providence wasn’t going to go away, but it was Kentucky that took a 38-31 lead into halftime.
The second half got off to another slow offensive start for both teams, but Kentucky was holding onto a narrow 38-35 lead at the first official timeout.
Another three by Reeves with just over 12 minutes remaining gave Kentucky a 46-37 lead.
Then the scoring droughts came for both teams and the under-8 media timeout came with Kentucky still sitting on 46 points. Thankfully, Providence only added a free throw during the same stretch.
Providence outscored Kentucky during the next segment, but at the final media timeout, Kentucky was clinging to a 52-46 lead.
Down the stretch, it wasn’t always pretty but Kentucky did exactly what they needed to do to get the 61-53 win ending their NCAA Tournament drought.
It was a three-headed monster attack from the Cats in this one. Therefore, I am making Jacob Toppin, Antonio Reeves, and Oscar Tshiebwe our trio of MVPs.
Tshiebwe was a beast on the glass all game as he finished with a Kentucky NCAA Tournament-record 25 rebounds to go along with 8 points. It wasn’t his best offensive performance, but the Cats dominated the glass, and he accounted for 25 of the team’s 48 boards.
Toppin was awesome on both ends of the floor during the first half. The standout part of his game was the defense he played on former Cat Bryce Hopkins. Kentucky needed a big game from Toppin and that is exactly what they got.
For the game, Toppin finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. As for his defense, he held Hopkins to just 7 points on 2-9 shooting.
As for Reeves, he did exactly what we have seen him do all year, score points. He went on to finish with 22 points, going 5/9 from deep and added 3 rebounds.
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