The St. Peterâ€™s University Peacocksâ€™ magical run through college basketballâ€™s postseason came to an end Sunday in Philadelphia.
North Carolina punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 69-49 win over the upstart Peacocks, who captured the imagination of sports fans across America.
“Tough way to go out,” downcast St. Peter’s Coach Shaheen Holloway told reporters after the game. “Words can’t describe and explain how happy I am for this group.”
Before the Peacocks, a No. 15 seed had never advanced to the Elite Eight.
St. Peter’s forward KC Ndefo said the team huddled and reminded themselves what a remarkable journey they had experienced.
“We just told each other, just stay together,” Ndefo said. “What we did was amazing, and this is a brotherhood. Words can’t describe what we did out there; just to be happy for each other.”
North Carolina jumped out to a 9-0 lead and stretched the advantage to as much as 27 points before coasting to victory.
Despite this joyous March run, Ndefo said the Peacocks dressing room was an unhappy place to be after the game.
“It was definite sadness. We expected to win this game,” he said. “There was definitely emotions in the locker room of sadness.”
Holloway implored his players to leave the Wells Fargo Center with pride, guard Daryl Banks III said.
“Coach preached that we should all keep our head high because what we did is something no one’s ever done before,” Banks said. “So we’re going to head out of here with our head high.”
Just to arrive at Sunday night’s game, the Peacocks had to score improbable victories over several heavy favorites â€” eight-time champion Kentucky, Purdue and its dominant 7-foot-4 center, Zach Edey, and Murray State, the alma mater of NBA superstar Ja Morant.
Friday’s win over Purdue coincided with National Peacock Day, and the Kentucky shocker happened on St. Patrick’s Day.
The school boasts a mere 3,009 students (2,134 undergrads) and operates rather anonymously in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York.
While upsets are nothing new to March Madness, the sport could be reaching a new age of parity, with many of the top schools losing players after just one year, to transfers or never getting them on campus.
Just three tournaments ago, theÂ UniversityÂ of Maryland-Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1, Virginia.
The Final Four will be composed of college basketball blue bloods who have won a total of 17 national titles.
North Carolina and in-state rival Duke will play in one national semifinal game Saturday while Kansas and Villanova are set to meet in the other.