PEACOCK PRIDE: Cinderella run continues for Saint Peter’s into the Elite 8; UNC awaits
The Saint Peter’s Peacocks pull of another upset over Purdue Friday night, continuing their Cinderella run in the Men's NCAA tournament to become the first 15 seeded team in the Elite Eight.
Their next opponent is the North Carolina Tarheels in Philadelphia, Sunday at 5 p.m.
News 12’s Keith Kocinski was on campus Saturday morning.
PEACOCK PRIDE: Live from campus after Purdue win
“What they going to say now?” coach Shaheen Holloway said about his team's doubters, a group whose numbers are dwindling.
The Boilermakers (29-8), 12 1/2-point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook, never led by more than six.
Almost 30 years to the day that Duke’s Christian Laettner stunned Kentucky with an overtime buzzer-beater to win a regional final at the since-razed Spectrum, Purdue and Saint Peter’s pulled off their own Philly classic.
Saint Peter’s fans made the 93-mile ride south to help pack the arena and give the Peacocks more of an edge than they usually have at their bandbox known as Run Baby Run Arena. Consider, just 434 fans were listed as the total attendance for Saint Peter’s home opener this season against LIU.
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More than that turned out to give the team a Sweet 16 sendoff from campus this week.
“Everybody wanted tickets. I can’t get tickets for everybody,” Holloway said. “I’ll tell you what, man, I can’t believe the support that we’re having. This is unbelievable. Jersey City has been unbelievable for us.”
Even more basketball fans - yes, even those whose brackets the Peacocks helped bust - were suddenly rooting for Saint Peter's, an unassuming campus just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.
Jaden Ivey buried an NBA-distance 3 with 8 seconds left that pulled Purdue within 65-64 and momentarily shushed the crowd.
No worries. Edert, whose wispy mustache and goofy persona earned him a fast-food chicken endorsement deal, sank two free throws to seal the win.
Edert then led the madness on the court and took it to the table. He saluted fans in the first few rows as the rest of the Peacocks mobbed each other and hugged before they gathered at the basket to celebrate - one more time - the biggest win in program history.
“Yeah. I found a little opening and started moving stuff,” Edert said of his table hop. “I don’t know, I was so excited.”
The Peacocks dropped and made snowmen on the court and soon there was a huge celebration of fans jamming the concourse chanting “S-P-U! S-P-U!” The Saint Peter's students and fans celebrated like they won a championship. Saint Peter's had never won an NCAA Tournament game and now, they'll just keep on dancing for at least one more game.
The school is tiny. The players are small. It makes no sense. Yet this is what March is about, right?
The Peacocks were the third No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 and Oral Roberts last year both failed to reach the regional final. Only two 12 seeds have made it to a regional final.
Meanwhile, a Final Four berth remains elusive for Boilermakers coach Matt Painter and his perennial Big Ten contender.
“I wish I could have coached better, wish we could have played a little bit better,” Painter said. “But that’s part of competition.”
Banks led the Peacocks with 14 points, Clarence Rupert scored 11 and Edert had 10. Trevion Williams had 16 points and eight rebounds for Purdue.
The Boilermakers missed 16 of 21 3-pointers and made 15 turnovers. Ivey was only 4 of 12 for nine points.
“I’m still in shock, honestly,” Williams said.
Join the club.
Before the game, Saint Peter’s players lay on their backs at half court as they did their stretching routine, most looking up at the big screen that replayed highlights from last weekend’s wins that got the team to Philadelphia.
By now, the Peacocks’ run is etched as the story of the tournament. Beating Kentucky and coach John Calipari was shocking enough. Eight days later, they're still in the bracket.
The Peacocks lived by Holloway’s mantra: “I got guys from New Jersey and New York City. You think we’re scared of anything?”
They certainly weren’t scared of the Boilermakers.
Purdue used its massive size advantage and dumped the ball inside to 7-foot-4 Zach Edey for easy dunks and Sasha Stefanovic hit three 3s to offset nine turnovers.
When Holloway talked about his players as New York and New Jersey tough, he should have thrown Philly into the mix. Rupert grew up in Philly and heard the loudest ovation of all the Peacocks during lineup introductions. He scored all of his points in the first half and kept the Peacocks within four at the break.
“I feel like there’s no pressure,” Edert said.
AP Wire Services were used in this report.