The biggest upset of this year's NCAA Tournament (so far) arrived with a bang Thursday evening as No. 15 seed Saint Peter's stunned No. 2 seed Kentucky 85-79 in overtime in the first round of March Madness. It marks just the 10th time in the history of the NCAA Tournament since expansion that a No. 15 has sent a No. 2 seed packing in the first round.
The Wildcats led for the majority of the game, but they were never able to put it away as the Peacocks hung around throughout. Then, down the stretch of the second half, the teams exchanged body blows before UK needed to make a shot in regulation to force overtime. The Peacocks finally put the game away behind Daryl Banks III's four made free throws in the extra period, giving them their first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
An 18.5-point underdog to the mighty Wildcats, the Peacocks' magical March moment was keyed by a huge outing from Banks III, the junior guard who finished with a team-high 27 points in the upset. They held their own against Player of the Year frontrunner Oscar Tshiebwe, too, and despite his 30 points and 16 rebounds, they methodically attacked the paint against UK's big-bodied big man and found success scoring in the paint.
Kentucky all season looked primed to make a deep run in March because of the blend of its top-end talent and experience, a rare combination coach John Calipari has not often enjoyed during his time in Lexington. But between one-and-done talent TyTy Washington and sharpshooter Kellan Grady, the two combined for 13 points on 3-of-19 shooting, one of their worst shooting showings all season between the two after a stellar regular season.
Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky since 2009, but Thursday's developments marked his first loss with UK in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"Sad day not just because we lose a game. It's that the season ended with this group," said Calipari. "You have an eight-point lead with three minutes to go, you win the game. We had an eight point lead. I'm not taking away from Saint Peter's. They deserved to win the game. They fought the entire time. These guys put us in position to win the game, let's finish this off."
While Kentucky at times looked like the best team in college basketball, the loss against Saint Peter's is the culmination of a late-season swoon that UK could not remedy. It lost four of its final nine games to end the season, including twice to Tennessee and once to Arkansas before taking on the Saint Peter's upset.
Saint Peter's lost the MAAC regular-season race by multiple games this season, but won three games in four days during its conference tournament run to earn the league's automatic bid. The Peacocks hae now won eight straight dating back to mid-February and will face either Murray State or San Francisco in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.