A Cinderella story! 15-seeded Saint Peter’s knocks out Kentucky

Saint Pierre pretends he’s been there before.

After the 15th-seeded Peacocks bounced Kentucky out of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night in Indianapolis, they calmly exchanged handshakes with the Wildcats before heading to the opposite sideline to celebrate with a small contingent true believers.

The little Jesuit school in Jersey City, New Jersey got 27 points from Daryl Banks III as they knocked out basketball royalty, beat second seed Kentucky 85-79 in overtime and sent countless brackets into the digital trash can.

“It was an incredible feeling,” Banks said. “You grow up watching March Madness, the tournament, so let that sink in – knowing the game was over – it was really good.”

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 first-round loss under coach John Calipari.

Related: All the best moments from the NCAA Men’s Tournament

“At the end of the day, every team that’s made it to the NCAA Tournament deserves to be here. Every team that’s made it to the NCAA Tournament believes they can improve. It’s about tonight,” said said Saint Peter coach Shaheen Holloway.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Saint Peter’s remained tight 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 into overtime. He also made the last two free throws for the Peacocks and finished with 20 points.

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

Not bad for a school with an enrollment of about 3,500 that has made half as many NCAA tournament appearances (four) as Kentucky has national titles (eight). Kentucky had more than 22,000 undergraduate students on its 900-acre campus in 2020 and has the second-highest paid coach in college hoops in Calipari (over $8 million annually).

“It’s huge,” Banks said. “We’re putting Jersey City on the map. We come from Jersey, a small school, probably a lot of people don’t even know who we are.”

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

Oscar Tshiebwe shines in Kentucky I Titus & Tate loss

Oscar Tshiebwe shines in Kentucky I Titus & Tate loss

Mark Titus and Tate Frazier discuss the incredible upheaval of the Kentucky Wildcats by 15-seeded Saint Peter’s. Oscar Tshiebwe had 30 points and 16 rebounds in the loss, proving why he still deserves to win Naismith Player of the Year.

The Wildcats had their sights set on a ninth title behind Tshiebwe, the 6-foot-9 forward who is up for National Player of the Year honors. And Kentucky played in front of a mostly blue-clad crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, a 2.5-hour drive from Lexington.

“It’s sad because I’ve wanted this moment for a long time,” Tshiebwe said.

Banks set the tone throughout, making all four 3s for 16 points in the first half. He was 9 of 19 from the court and 5 of 8 from deep, with a raucous reaction after most every big shot. Teammates followed suit.

Edert shot 5 of 7, including his two 3-point tries. Saint Peter’s finished 9 of 17 overall from 3 and shot 29 of 57 overall (50.9%). The Peacocks also stayed close on the boards (35 to Kentucky’s 36) and went 18 of 21 from the line.

“It’s amazing, it’s really amazing,” Edert said. “They had a big crowd, a lot of people. I don’t know if you saw it, but we also had our own little section there.”

Kentucky was 26 of 61 (43%) overall and 23 of 35 from the line. The Wildcats were hesitant with the ball at times, a hesitation that ended in forced shots. And that led to a second straight loss to close the season.

Is John Calipari now in the hot seat? l Titus & Tate

Is John Calipari now in the hot seat?  l Titus & Tate

Mark Titus and Tate Frazier wonder if John Calipari should be in the hot seat after the Kentucky Wildcats’ stunning loss to the Saint Peter Peacocks in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Tournament.

“My thing this week, because I knew they had never played in that kind of stuff, was to release them and we never got to that point,” Calipari said. “Even in time outs I was trying to do it. … As a manager it’s your job to figure out how to finish the game and we didn’t.”

Although the result was a shock, at least one person picked the Peacocks to pull off the upset – former NBA player Nate Robinson.

The upset sparked a wide range of reactions in the sports world, as Kentucky’s loss surely destroyed many parentheses.

Here’s a sample of what the watchers had to say.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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