By Lizzie Hull

INDIANAPOLIS — The Kentucky Wildcats basketball season came to a surprising end Thursday night as they fell to 15-seed Saint Peters 85-79 in overtime. Tied at 37 going into the half, and again at 71 going into overtime, one team had to break away to advance into the second round and it was not the second-seeded Wildcats. 

Sad day.” said John Calipari. “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.”

Despite SEC Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe putting up record numbers, the Wildcats could not get it done in Indianapolis. Tshiebwe’s 30 points, which matched his career-high, and 16 rebounds made him the only Wildcat in UK basketball history with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in an NCAA tournament game. 

Tshiebwe, unsure of his return, made history this season for the Wildcats through his rebounding prowess and ability to dominate in the paint. 

I don’t know yet. I don’t know.” said Tshiebwe. “That’s a decision I’m going to talk with Coach. I don’t know yet.” 

A record-setting season came to a close for Oscar Tshiebwe (SEC Digital)

Tshiebwe finishes the season with 515 rebounds to become the third player in school history to finish a season with 500 rebounds.. The nation’s leading rebounder also recorded his 28th double-double Thursday night to expand the single season record for double-doubles. 

Through an even first half and second the Wildcats could not find a way to stop the scoring machine in St Peter’s that showed up in Indianapolis. 

We missed shots, and Saint Peter’s made shots,” said Calipari. “They made threes. They made layups; we missed. They made free throws; we missed.”

The Peacocks, led by Daryl Banks and Doug Edert, exposed a weakened Kentucky defense in moving on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they will play Murray St.

Banks finished with 27 points to lead St. Peter’s with Edert adding 20, including two clutch three-pointers. 

“Our team works so hard every day in practice,” said Edert. “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.” 

In the final minutes of the regulation the Wildcats managed to lose their 68-62 lead, their largest of the game. That’s when the Peacocks scored seven straight, converting twice after Kentucky turnovers and then, with just over a minute remaining, with a demoralizing three from Edert that gave the Peacocks a 69-68 lead.

The Wildcats answered when Kellan Grady would score his first three pointer since the win over Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament. Grady finished 1-of-7 from deep Thursday night, his shot putting the Wildcats back on top, 71-69.

St. Peter’s answered with a bucket; the Wildcats had the final shot in regulation but couldn’t connect and the game went to OT.

Kentucky started strong in the extra period, building a four-point lead to make it 75-71, but Edert showed up with another big three pointer with just 2:40 left and would again tie the game for the Peacocks. 

The Wildcats and Peacocks would trade fouls following the early OT scoring, but five missed free throws by the Wildcats and eight makes for the Peacocks became the difference-maker in the end, sending the Peacocks forward in the Tournament. 

“We work on free throws probably more than anybody in the country,” said KC Ndefo. “That’s one thing that we do in practice over and over again. So you know, our coach really believes in us and this is the stuff that we’re supposed to be doing, and we’re just going out there to try to execute all the games in every aspect.”

Tshiebwe got little offensive support; Sahvir Wheeler was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 11, along with six assists and six turnovers. Jacob Toppin had nine; Grady (1-for-8 from the floor), Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks each scored eight with the two guards appearing in their final game in UK uniforms.

It likely was the college finale as well for freshman TyTy Washington, projected to go early in the NBA Draft. He was held to just five points on 2-of-10 shooting.

Prior to Thursday night, only nine times since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 had a 15 seed upset a 2 seed. Kentucky now takes its place in the history books with a distinction the Big Blue Nation will never forget.

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