Kentucky upset by Saint Peter’s in OT in first round of NCAA Tournament

It's John Calipari's first NCAA Tournament opening round loss since coming to UK

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (WTVQ/UK ATHLETICS) – Tiny Saint Peter’s took down basketball royalty on Thursday night, getting 27 points from Daryl Banks III in an 85-79 overtime victory over second-seeded Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Peacocks became the 10th No. 15 seed to win a first-round game since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and handed Kentucky its first opening-round loss under coach John Calipari.

Saint Peter’s, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion, kept it close throughout and Banks’ two free throws with 1:45 left in overtime gave the Peacocks the lead for good. Doug Edert’s layup with 24 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime. He also made the final two game-sealing free throws for the Peacocks and finished with 20 points.

Saint Peter’s (20-11) moves on to face either Murray State or San Francisco in Saturday’s second round in the East Region.

Not bad for a private Jesuit school in Jersey City, New Jersey, that’s made half as many NCAA Tournament appearances (four) as Kentucky has national titles (eight).

Oscar Tshiebwe had 30 points and 16 rebounds for Kentucky (26-8) but his pair of missed free throws early in overtime was costly, and the Wildcats lacked a reliable secondary scorer. TyTy Washington Jr. was held to five points on 2-of-10 shooting.

The game featured 16 ties and 13 lead changes. Kentucky went ahead 68-62 on Sahvir Wheeler’s driving layup with 4:12 remaining. Saint Peter’s followed with seven unanswered points, capped by Edert’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:25 remaining. Kellan Grady put Kentucky back ahead before Edert forced OT.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Peter’s: The Peacocks didn’t flinch against their more talented foe, keeping up with and sometimes dictating the pace. Banks’ perimeter shooting was huge in the first half before he came up late in the game and in OT.

Kentucky: The Wildcats had to work for nearly every basket but succeeded at getting to the line. But they struggled moving the ball and missed several key shots that could have won the game. Instead, they’re going home early a year after missing the tournament altogether.  This did not look like the same team that beat North Carolina by 29, Tennessee by 28 and Kansas by 18 at Kansas during the regular season.

To view the box score, click here.

Here are postgame comments compiled by UK Athletics:

JOHN CALIPARI: Sad day. Not just we lose a game. It’s that this season ended with this group and how much joy they brought to me and our staff. And I’ll just say one thing; that you have an eight-point lead, and I’m a guy that’s been through a lot of these, you have an eight-point lead with three minutes to go, you win the game.

So I really don’t need to know, well, this guy did that and that guy did this and this and this and this. We had an eight-point lead with three-some to go. I’m not taking away from Saint Peter’s. They deserved to win the game. They fought the entire time.

But that’s how I feel about it; that, you know, these guys put us in a position to win the game. Let’s finish it off.

Q. For any or all of you. At one point during the season, you guys were hitting on all cylinders and looked like the team to beat. It’s not been quite the same for a couple of weeks. Do any of you have an idea of just sort of what has gone wrong these last couple of weeks?

KELLAN GRADY: I think that’s difficult to reflect on right now. The simplest answer is some of the things we were doing at a high level large part of the season we were not doing as efficiently and as well. And I think the biggest thing is we got away from guarding the way we were guarding at a high level. And like Coach said, there were pivotal opportunities to get stops down the stretch, and we failed to do that. That’s why we lost the game.

Q. For Oscar. Right at the very end, you were doubled over, pretty emotional. Can you speak to your emotions and what you were thinking and how difficult that moment was.

OSCAR TSCHIEBWE: Just how I stayed locked and focused because I know this game was not going to be easy, told my teammates, we just got to stay focused. They are going to try to play, especially me in the post, they were going to try to double me. I think we fight. I think we just missed a couple shots and defense, we struggled a little bit but we give our best. I think that’s what I can say.

Q. You struggled again shooting. What do you think — why do you think that happened down the stretch and how much do you think it would have helped if you were yourself?

KELLAN GRADY: If I bang a couple and I was myself the last couple games, we probably would have won them. I’m not trying to escape that accountability. I shot like crap again tonight. It’s unfortunate.

If I could pinpoint it exactly, I wouldn’t have shot like crap. You know, I feel — this is such a close group and we have gone through a lot this year, and we’ve accomplished a lot, and today would have been — it would have been good for us to get a win, and you know, I feel bad that I couldn’t help in better fashion to help us win.

But it is what it is.

KEION BROOKS: Kellan does a lot for us shooting the ball. None of us really made shots, so I don’t think that’s something that you can put on him. He works extremely hard every single day, like, just tonight, they didn’t go. But even beyond him and then the rest of us not making shots, it was just some plays that we didn’t make that cost us the game. Even if none of us made any shots, there were still plays that defensive or just execution-wise that we — that we weren’t great on that cost us.

Q. You’ve been through as much as anybody; what are your big picture thoughts on what this season meant, and if the ending changes, how you look at it at all?

KEION BROOKS: The ending doesn’t change how I look at these guys at all. I love every single one of them. I love the progress and the progression that we made throughout the whole year, how we came together, how we got better as a team, how guys got better individually.

I love and enjoy being around the staff, having really good and great times. My tenure here has been a little funky and difficult, a little different, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Coming here, I’ve learned a lot beyond being a basketball player, but Coach Cal has done a great job of shaping me into a better man and that being said, I don’t regret anything that I’ve been through as long as I’ve been here.

Q. Oscar, apologize for asking this now, but not sure when we’ll see you guys again. Have you made a decision on coming back next year or what that process might look like?

OSCAR TSCHIEBWE: I don’t know yet. I don’t know. That’s a decision I’m going to talk with Coach. I don’t know yet.

Q. You’ve poured your heart into this season. What are you feeling that it’s over; that it happened kind of suddenly and like this?

OSCAR TSCHIEBWE: It is sad because I’ve been wanting this moment for a long time. I’m a junior and this is three years in college and this is my first March Madness. I even told my teammates, this is not going to be easy for us. If we don’t — if we are not willing to fight, any team in March Madness, they make it for a reason. So we’ve got to be locked in. We’ve got to be ready to go. So I think everybody tried and did their best they could. I did the best I could. It just happens sometimes like that. But one thing I’m going to say, we are just going to stay together and just trust the process. Losing and winning is part of the game. And I don’t know, just to stay together.

Q. This isn’t the first game where down the stretch of a possession-by-possession game, it didn’t go as well as you wanted. Is there a link there? Why do you think that was a problem area?

JOHN CALIPARI: You know, I think, again, my whole thing third quarter, because I knew they had never played in this stuff, was to get them free and loose, and we never got to that. Never.

And you know, even in time-outs, I was trying to do that, and — but we made, up eight, you know, we just didn’t do the things we normally have done. But I come back to, when you’re up eight with three minutes to go, you figure out how to win the game. That’s your job as a coach.

You know, we had some guys that had not played the way they had been playing, and you know, you look back and say, could we have put Rice in, could we have put Davion in, just try something. But the game, it was a touch-and-go game, and then it’s not fair for those kids to be put in that position and do something that hurts our season.

But hindsight when you are coaching, could have done this, could have done that; at the end of the day, I’ve been in these situations, and the hard thing is because we — the thing I talked about, we got injured and we never kind of went back. So I may have been trying to coach a team that I coached a month ago. And we had some guys that weren’t playing like they were a month ago.

But I come back to, this was an unbelievable group. Just picked a bad day to not make a shot, and you know, we are trying to throw it to Oscar every time. That’s how we played. I mean, he’s — you know, just, okay, come down and throw it to Oscar.

I feel bad for the guys, because I mean, they are taking it hard. They know, you guys ask Kellan a question that’s, you know, tough for these kids. They know what they did and how they did it, but I also say, I’m going to say this again, an eight-point lead with three minutes to go, let’s go. Let’s win this thing. And you know, a couple errors to make the game close, you know, they went zone. Couldn’t get them to throw the ball to the middle. I mean, we had not had that issue against any zone we played. But we did today.

So give Saint Peter’s credit.

Q. You mentioned that you were trying to get these guys to play free but down the stretch when you were up eight and Saint Peter’s started mounting that come back, could you sense nerves were a real factor?

JOHN CALIPARI: It was the whole game. It wasn’t just then. I took guys out because they wouldn’t shoot the ball. I did that about three times. If you don’t shoot it, I’m taking you out. They wouldn’t shoot; I had to take them out. I had to do that three times. I said, I don’t care if you make it, understand that Oscar is under the basket and if you miss it, he’ll get it. But if you drive into nine guys, you throw something where he’s got four guys on him, it’s hard.

But again, this was probably something they never felt in their lives. And that’s why I wish I had some answers with three minutes to go to help them through it to get by the first one. But I tell you what, we missed shots, and Saint Peter’s made shots. They made threes. They made layups; we missed. They made free throws; we missed. It’s one of those games that I was hoping I could get it buy them to get them on to the next game to get their feet underneath them, and obviously I didn’t do a very good job with it.

Q. You talk about “what ifs.” For a lot of people, one of those will be Shaedon and why he didn’t play. Was there a point after you made that decision where he looked ready to contributor was it clear he couldn’t have helped you even if he wanted to play?

JOHN CALIPARI: At one point, he and I sat down and talked about it. But you know, I think that was what was best for him is how we did it. Would he have been a good player this year? Yeah, he’d been pretty good. He’d have been pretty good. But he joined us midseason. Trying to get him up to all the stuff that we were doing was hard.

Then it came a point late, maybe we could should have him in there. We just, you know, together, chose, let’s just wait.

Q. Oscar put up incredible numbers again tonight. You’ve talked about what he’s meant to the team. But have you had a chance in the last few minutes to reflect on what he accomplished on the court and what he meant to your group this year?

JOHN CALIPARI: You know, I haven’t. I just saw 30 and 16, and they had five guys playing him. He’s done something that hadn’t been done in a long time, and he made everybody better.

Now, you may not believe this, but we led our league in three-point shooting. A lot of that opened up the court for him. But when you’re not making any shots, it makes it even tougher for him.

But you just heard him. I mean, so thoughtful and such a great kid. He and I will sit down in the next day or two to figure out what path is for him. But I’ll tell you this: You talk about a pleasure to coach, this whole team. I mean, like I’m sick right now for them. Just disappointed that, you know, I wish I had an answer or two. I just do.

You know, it’s just hindsight, you can’t — you can play that game all you want. But give Saint Peter’s credit. And I watched the tapes. Let me tell you, I was worried going into the game. I wasn’t showing anybody. I was whistling and skipping and dancing and we can’t wait.

But I’m like, ooohh, they rebound. I mean, they rebounded with us. Now, Oscar had his but they rebounded. Everybody else for them rebounded. You know, some things happened. Like they said, we are a good defensive team. We weren’t — and let’s give them credit. Back-doored us to death and beat us on the bounce, and made threes coming off screens, and they played well.

Shaheen has done a great job. I told him prior to the game, “The job you’ve done with this team,” and what I’ve seen, how they play, their structure, he’s done a great job.

Q. You mentioned the nerves, the shellshock that was going on with some of those guys that have not been in this moment. As the minutes kept going and Saint Peter’s kept coming, going —

JOHN CALIPARI: I didn’t hear what you were saying.

Q. With the coaching staff, as it got tight in the end and you could see in these guys eyes that they were nervous —

JOHN CALIPARI: We were in every time-out trying to encourage. You’re going to be fine; we’ve just got to make a play.

You know, at one point with five minutes to go, one of the guys got on a guy and said, “Stop, there’s five minutes, just be positive. Just leave it alone. Just be positive.”

And so we were trying to help them get through it. Obviously didn’t do the kind of job we needed to.

Q. This may be farfetched, with you I wonder if Saint Peter’s reminds you of some of your UMASS teams in terms of going after it and we may be the underdog, but we are taking it to you, that sort of stuff.

JOHN CALIPARI: They do. Undersized, but fought. Athletic enough to play bigger guys. And played the way I played and coached at UMASS, which is a little slower. We grinded out a little more. Tried to have five guys in double figures. You know, some of my team shot the ball pretty well, Carmelo and some of the guys that were really good shooters.

So just disappointed. I’m disappointed for our fans, because I know they are here en masse and they were shellshocked like we all were, but I would tell them, we have got the greatest fans; that they travel, and we hate letting them down. I do as a coach and I know these players do.

But you know, we just — don’t take away from what these kids did. This was really disappointing, devastating. But this team brought a lot of joy to a lot of us. Just hate that it ends this way. Thanks.

 

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