Three years ago, an undefeated Wichita State team and a slow-starting-but-heating-up Kentucky team played an absolutely incredible game of basketball in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament. I remember watching it on my couch at home in Pittsburgh, surrounded by relatives who were excited to see me over spring break, and paying literally no attention to anything except the television. (Well, and the buffalo chicken dip.) In the end, Kentucky won out by two points.
This year, 10-seed Wichita State had a chance for vengeance against 2-seed Kentucky, and they dang if they nearly did it.
Yesterday, as the two teams prepared for the "rematch," Wichita State forward Darral Willis, Jr., sparked the quasi-rivalry with some pretty solid bulletin-board material, telling reporters he and the Shockers weren't scared of big, bad Kentucky.
Wichita State forward Darral Willis Jr. said Kentucky is "nothing special" and the Shockers aren't afraid of anyone "on this planet." pic.twitter.com/oYkE9eqEXU-- Jonathan Dunn (@jdunnLEX18) March 18, 2017
Which meant you KNEW both teams were going to bring it on Sunday.
And it didn't disappoint.
Kentucky held a two-point lead at halftime, the two teams traded leads early in the second half, and neither team ever led by more than seven points the entire way.
And against a team full of first-round NBA draft picks, it was Wichita State's freshman guard Landry Shemet who had the biggest afternoon of all. Shamet hit seven of his 14 shots, scoring 20 points to lead the Shockers within mere points of knocking off one of the 10 best teams in the country this year.
Down the stretch, things got very dramatic, especially in the final two minutes.
After Shamet made three straight free throws, and the teams traded three-pointers on consecutive possessions, Kentucky led by just two points with under 120 seconds to play. Their offense, that three-pointer aside, had been sort of sleepy and it needed something to wake it up.
Enter De'Aaron Fox:
But Wichita wasn't done! Because, like I said, Sunday was all about Shamet, who broke out his super-duper-clutch pants just in time, answering Fox's dunk with this cold-blooded three to make it a one-point game:
But after a Malik Monk block, and then two free throws from the Kentucky freshman, Wichita only had one more chance to tie things up and send it to overtime to get that sweet revenge, and they came thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close... but couldn't make it happen.
Still, such a tremendous game from two very good teams. Wichita State probably (read: definitely) deserved higher than a 10-seed, but Kentucky was just better on Sunday. Also, these two teams should play each other every day for the rest of time.