John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats entered the 2023 NCAA Tournament with many nonetheless considering of the best way final season ended.
The Wildcats had been bounced within the first spherical by St. Peter’s, final 12 months’s Cinderella of the NCAA Tournament, placing immense stress on Calipari and his 2022-23 Kentucky staff to bounce again.
On Friday, Kentucky did bounce again, beating the No. 11 seed Providence Friars, 61-53.
“It was a giant reduction, clearly. I knew what this staff was able to,” ahead Jacob Toppin mentioned after the sport. “So, we bought the job accomplished. Props to my teammates. We all caught collectively. Even after they made their run. We didn’t put our heads down. We saved preventing.
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“We did the little issues that received us the sport.”
Senior guard Antonio Reeves led Kentucky in scoring, connecting on 5 of 9 photographs from past the 3-point line, ending the evening with 22 factors.
Reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tsheibwe was a monster on the glass, grabbing 13 rebounds — eight on the offensive glass — within the first half, ending the evening with 25 boards.
Before the season, Calipari advised Kentucky followers to be affected person together with his staff, saying they could not love the preliminary outcomes.
“I just like the items,” Calipari mentioned in a video previous to the 12 months. “We bought the Player of the Year, we’ve bought one other first-team all-conference, we’ve bought good younger guys. But let me clarify to you, and you realize I’m sincere about stuff. We’re not the place we should be proper now.
“And I’m November and December saying, ‘We might be a bit shaky.’”
And Kentucky was “shaky,” starting the 12 months ranked fourth within the preseason rankings earlier than shedding three of its first 4 video games within the SEC.
But the Wildcats went 11-3 the remainder of the best way within the convention, grabbing a No. 4 seed within the event after shedding to Vanderbilt within the SEC Tournament.
Now, Calipari has his staff advancing, awaiting the winner of Montana State-Kansas State for a second-round matchup Sunday.
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