ATLANTA — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the man who could do no wrong in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, knew the shot was off as soon as it left his hands. Kentucky’s final heave of 2018 sent Kansas State to the Elite Eight, and Gilgeous-Alexander and his teammates the way of every other favorite in the South Region: home.
The buzzer beater not to be would’ve sent Kentucky and Kansas State to overtime, but the purple-clad Wildcats prevailed 61-58. Gilgeous-Alexander was left with his hands folded behind his head, a universal gesture of disbelief drenched in disappointment.
The final shot wasn’t even meant for him.
“Coach set up a play that was gonna be a double-pin for Wenyen [Gabriel] at the free throw line and then to pop at the top of the key for a three, but it took a little time to develop, and then I had to take a tough shot,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
The freshman point guard — after averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6.5 assists on 60 percent shooting in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament — was just 2 of 10 against K-State. He had 15 points, but 11 came at the free throw line. His five assists were matched by five turnovers.
“I just didn’t have a good day today,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “My shot wasn’t falling. I made some bad decisions late in the game … They did a really good job of pressuring me and being physical. I wouldn’t say it was them. I just thought I was thinking too much.”
Gilgeous-Alexander, just as his desperation equalizer, was off. “Worn down,” as John Calipari put it.
“We kind of just crowded him a little bit, kind of played our principles, kind of watched him a lot, just to know what he did,” Kansas State guard Barry Brown said.
Kansas State muddied things up for Kentucky, who scored a season-low 58 points on a season-low 16 made field goals.
It seemed as though Calipari’s squad had a cake walk to San Antonio’s River Walk, but the season stopped two games short of the Final Four.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We’ve come so far since the beginning of the year. I think all of us, including myself, have made a lot of strides. We all got better. We’ve matured on and off the court. We’ve built a brotherhood.”
No Kentucky player matched Gilgeous-Alexander’s growth — from the 7th-ranked prospect out of eight signees in his own Kentucky class to the 12th-ranked NBA draft prospect in the world, according to ESPN. For the record, Gilgeous-Alexander said he hasn’t thought about a draft decision.
The 6-foot-6 Hamilton, Ontario native with short shorts to match his old man’s game was a sensation for Kentucky. He was edgy without a tolerance for nonsense. He was Kentucky’s silencer in a second round blowout of Buffalo. He was slippery and long around the rim, contorting his body — and his face — as he scooped in layups.
Barring what would be a shocking decision to return for his sophomore season, Gilgeous-Alexander was a story with an ending more premature than most would’ve thought.
“It’s obviously hard, knowing how much time I’ve put into the game, and how much time the team puts into the game, and not getting the result we want,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “This experience finally being over, it sucks, but I’m just gonna try to get better from it, and that’s it.”
Watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on his final shot, future at Kentucky
The post Kentucky basketball: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s tying miss ends story, team’s season appeared first on SEC Country.
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