Sports Journalism Blog

By Taris Young | @Taris_The_Gunna

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — As the final horn sounded and the fans of the University of Kentucky stood stunned at what had just happened, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks walked toward their fans and celebrated their historic victory over the Wildcats. Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, the 6-foot-9 junior who may soon become consensus national player of the year, covered his face with his hands as he left the floor.

The 85-79 overtime victory for St. Peter’s made the Peacocks the tenth No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in the 37 tournaments since the 64-team field was created.

“We had our little section, too,” said junior guard Doug Edert, whose 20 points, including 8-for-8 foul shooting, made the shocking victory possible. “I don’t know if anybody saw that but we did. They came and supported us. It just feels amazing. It’s a huge win for the program and our coaches and our teammates and it just feels amazing.”

Saint Peter’s brought madness to March.

“Every team that made it to the NCAA Tournament think that they could advance,” said St. Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway. “You know, like you just have to be good on this night. It’s not about your record. It’s not about what school you are at. It’s whoever is good on that night, and tonight, it was our night.”

St. Peter’s (20-11) advanced to a second-round East Region game against Murray State, with the winner heading to Philadelphia for a first regional semifinal game in school history. The Peacocks could become the third No. 15 seed to reach the round of 16, joining Oral Roberts last year and Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.

St. Peter’s has made four tournament appearances, losing each of the previous three games by an average of 15.7 points. Before Thursday night, schools in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference had a combined winning percentage of 24.3 percent in NCAA games.

Kentucky (26-8) was led by Tshiebwe, who scored 30 points on 11-for-16 shooting, with 16 rebounds. The Wildcats were held to 26.7% 3-point shooting. Kentucky lost in the first round for the first time since 2008. The school has won eight national championships, and its total of 129 victories is the most in the history of the event.

Saint Peter’s made nine of 17 3-point shots, or 52.9%, led by junior guard Daryl Banks III, whose team-high 27 points included 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the line. The ability of the Peacocks to stay close, even when Kentucky took a 68-62 lead with 4:12 to play, could be traced to the team’s resolve.

“That goes back to us having a chip on our shoulders,” Banks said. “We come from different places. We had different opportunities set up, maybe we could have went somewhere else. But Coach believed in us and he brought us in because he knew what we could do.”

In the noise of Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the Peacocks showed the nation.

“Daryl Banks had an off conference tournament,” Holloway said, “and the last two days he

was in the gym working, working, working. I knew he was going to have a big game.”

Banks, who averaged 11 points, had committed a turnover and missed a shot during the 10-2 Kentucky run that appeared to take control of the game. But his score inside with 2:57 to go started the comeback.

Edert’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave the Peacocks a 69-68 lead with 1:23 to go. Kentucky guard Kellan Grady, a graduate student, made a 3-point shot, his only basket of the game, with 47 seconds to go to put the Wildcats ahead.

But Edert’s shot with 21.6 seconds to go tied the score, and when Kentucky junior Jacob Toppin missed a jumper at the end of regulation, the Peacocks had their chance.

In overtime, Edert’s 3-point shot tied the score at 75-75 with 2:39 to go. The Peacocks were perfect from the foul line in the last 1:45, with Banks making four of the final eight St. Peter’s points.

“Our team works so hard every day in practice, doesn’t matter who we play against, we are going to go out and execute our game plan and play as hard as we possibly can,” said Edert.

Led by Edert, the Peacock reserves outscored the Kentucky bench, 34-17.

“This is about the players,” said Holloway. “This is about them. These guys put up with my nonsense every day in practice. This is about them. I’m so proud of them and so happy for them because these are moments people can’t take away from them.”

Tshiebwe said he had not made a decision about his future. In what could have been his final moments in a Kentucky uniform, he tried to lift his jersey to cover his face. “It is sad because I’ve been wanting this moment for a long time,” he said. “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.”

Tshiebwe’s teammates learned he was right. “I just saw 30 and 16, and they had five guys playing him,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “He’s done something that hadn’t been done in a long time, and he made everybody better.”