Reflecting on Kentucky’s historic loss to Saint Peter’s


Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe, left, and head coach John Calipari, right, hold their heads in their hands during a press conference after the UK vs. Saint Peter’s mens basketball game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Gainbridge Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. UK lost 85-79 in overtime. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

After receiving a thumping at the hands of North Carolina in the Elite Eight, Saint Peter’s all-time Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament came to an end.

Shaheen Holloway, Doug Edert, Peter the Peacock and the gang etched their names into college basketball history books, becoming the first ever No. 15 seed to make it past the Sweet 16.

The small Jesuit university out of Jersey City, New Jersey, which has less than 3,000 students enrolled, quickly became America’s darling as it rolled through the tournament with a chip on its shoulder and passion on the court.

It all started on Thursday, March 17, inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, where those same Peacocks were supposedly attending their own funeral, taking on that esteemed blue and white school that resides in Lexington. You know, the one that has the eight championships and the second-most wins of any program ever.

The game started out as most March Madness tilts do, an even bout that see’s the mid-major find the gusto needed to hang around with the big dog for a while. One half goes by, and the score is tied at 37. The story then goes that the top seed wakes up for the back half, and swats away the little brother, avoiding danger and moving on to the next round.

Kentucky must’ve missed that memo.

Another even half of basketball, which saw the Wildcats on the back foot, eventually called for overtime. As fear struck John Calipari’s group, Holloway and his players remained calm and poised.

UK would manage just eight points in the overtime period, missing five free throws along the way. It became apparent that the Cats’ performance wasn’t up to snuff, and the Peacocks handed Kentucky its worst loss in program history, winning 85-79.

Of course, Saint Peter’s wasn’t done there. It would continue its Commonwealth takeover, vanquishing Murray State in the second round just two days later. The Peacocks would then get to play a little closer to home in the Sweet 16, outlasting No. 3 seeded Purdue, before UNC brought everyone back to reality in the Elite Eight.

For Kentucky fans, the pill may be a little easier to swallow, knowing that the Peacocks weren’t one and done, as they achieved one of the greatest runs in tournament history. Regardless, when you take a look at the Final Four, it’s a blue blood party and the Cats didn’t get invited.

The Wildcats played three of the four remaining teams, slaughtering North Carolina and Kansas, while falling to Duke in the season opener.

UK pasted the Tar Heels 98-69 in Las Vegas on Dec. 18, led by a 26-point performance via Sahvir Wheeler. The Cats shot 54% from the floor and smothered UNC on the glass, winning the rebound battle 44-26.

Just over a month later in Lawrence, Kansas, Kentucky waltzed into Allen Fieldhouse and decimated the Jayhawks 80-62. It was a career performance from Keion Brooks Jr., as he poured in 27 points while Oscar Tshiebwe added 17 points and 14 rebounds. UK held Kansas to 40% shooting.

Despite the two near perfect performances, proving that the Wildcats belonged in National Championship contention, it’s the Tar Heels and Jayhawks who are headed to New Orleans for a shot at the title.

Along the way, Kansas passed Kentucky on the all-time wins list, removing the “winningest program” moniker from the Cats’ clutches. Toss in Louisville announcing longtime UK assistant Kenny Payne as its new head coach, and March has been a rough month for Big Blue Nation.

There’s still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the makeup of next year’s team, which isn’t unusual for UK. Falmouth, Kentucky, native Dontaie Allen has entered the transfer portal after three seasons in Lexington, and there is speculation that he will not be the only player to do so, with rumors swirling around the likes of Brooks, Bryce Hopkins and Lance Ware.

Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz’s departures leave slots open that Calipari hopes will be filled by incoming McDonald’s All-Americans Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston. UK hopes there will be a trio of talented freshmen running the court next season, but Shaedon Sharpe’s decision to either go pro or return to Lexington still hangs in the balance.

TyTy Washington Jr. is yet to announce his decision, though it seems certain that he will test the waters at the NBA Draft, where some have him projected as a lottery pick. National Player of the Year Tshiebwe is also yet to make a decision as he rakes in postseason awards on a daily basis. The return of the West Virginia transfer will completely alter how Calipari attempts to fll his roster for next season.

It’s going to be a long offseason for Kentucky fans, especially if Duke and Mike Krzyzewski hoist the title one final time. Year 14 under Calipari will once again bring excitement, as a new batch of talent will enter Rupp Arena, looking to reinstate the Wildcats as one of the figure heads of college basketball.

Don’t expect BBN to jump right back in. Following the worst season in program history with the worst loss in program history isn’t exactly the best way to keep the fans happy. As famed as Calipari is in the Bluegrass, he has just one title for his troubles.

The 2022-23 season is far away, but for many it will be viewed as a make-or-break year for Kentucky basketball to reclaim its spot atop the world of college athletics. After going three years without a single victory in the NCAA Tournament, UK must face the music as patience begins to run thin in Lexington.