The Kentucky basketball team failed to show up, failed to hit shots, failed to play the way they should have and John Calipari failed in getting his team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament by being outcoached as No. 15 St. Peter’s stunned the No. 2 Wildcats 85-79 in overtime.
As if last season as a whole was not disappointing enough the 2021-22 season ended with a resounding thud as well. Kentucky lost eight games this season, finished third in the Southeastern Conference regular season, got resounding bounced in the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament by Tennessee, and then coughed up another clunker in Indianapolis to drop the curtain on the season.
While its fair to be critical of Kentucky’s performance you have to applaud the play of coach Shaheen Holloway and his Peacock team. They were in it to win it from the opening tip. The tiny Jesuit school from Jersey City, NJ wasn’t afraid of the boys in blue from the Bluegrass.
Tiny St. Peter’s slays big Goliath Kentucky basketball and sends Wildcats home
The private school of 2,600 undergraduates and 800 graduate students made more noise tonight as the Kentucky faithful watched in stunned disbelief at the performance that unfolded before their eyes.
"“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.”"
While it was just their fourth-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament it was Kentucky’s lack of experience that showed on the floor as well. Just two players Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz had ever played in the Big Dance before and lost all three times. Make that 0-5 now.
Grady, in fact, continued his slide and I can’t remember a player’s confidence, demeanor, and shot disappearing so quickly as he did as the season wound down.
He was just 1 for 9 field goal shooting that included 1 for 7 from behind the arc. Calipari screamed, yelled, and forced him to shoot so many poor shots it became heartbreakingly embarrassing to watch. He did make 5 of 6 free throws to go with five rebounds and four assists.
Mintz wasn’t much better off the bench going 3 for 7 shooting including 1 of 3 from 3-point range to go with 3 rebounds and a pair of assists.
Grady was asked about his shooting afterward.
"” 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 a better fashion to help us win. But it is what it is.”"
Oscar Tshiebwe should honestly feel the worst because he played his heart out as he has done each and every game this season and the rest of the team and coaches let him down. The big man had 30 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists, and 2 steals playing 43 plus minutes.
He has preached all year about his work ethic, never giving up, and never letting anything get in your way of achieving what you want. Unfortunately, the rest of the Wildcats didn’t grasp that philosophy.
There are tons of what if’s and should have and would have and why this happened – again.
But the bottom line is this St. Peter’s has one of the worst offensive efficiencies according to KenPom yet hits 29-57 shots including 9 of 17 long bombs; made 18 of 21 free throws and finished just one rebound behind the Cats and tied them in assists (13) and turned it over twice more 15-13 than UK.
The flip side was Kentucky knocking down just 26 of 61 field goals but an even chillier 4 of 15 3-pointers while making 23 of 35 free throws. Those charity shots were a bug-a-boo once again as they were 1 of 6 in overtime and UK netted just EIGHT total points in overtime.
St. Peter’s (20-11) will keep their Cinderella slipper on and face Murray State on Saturday and Kentucky (26-8) will head home to clean out their lockers.
A few other quick takeaways.