Without Desi Washington, Saint Peter's will need help from its supporting cast to win home and MAAC opener against Niagara Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Saint Peter's University)
At 0-2 after dropping their weekend contests against Brown and Hartford, John Dunne was obviously disappointed in the outcome for his Saint Peter's team, but is still able to take positives out of the Peacocks' two season-opening contests, the latter of which was played without Desi Washington, his senior shooting guard and all-MAAC honoree.
"I thought we responded well and played hard at Hartford," Dunne intimated, "but when you shoot 3-for-19 from three and 13-for-21 at the foul line, it's going to be hard to win games like that."
Throw in the loss of Washington, whose injury to his right (shooting) hand and wrist will shelve the Peacocks' second-leading scorer from last season, and the task becomes a little taller.
"If I had to guess," Dunne updated us as to Washington's availability, "after all the swelling goes down, we're looking at probably a couple of weeks. Without Desi, another guy, or maybe two or three guys, have to step up."
Thankfully, Saint Peter's, picked fourth in the MAAC preseason coaches' poll due to their experience and four returning starters, has the resources needed to overcome the absence of Washington. Through the first two games, Marvin Dominique has returned to the dominant form that the Peacocks have enjoyed since landing the Floridian from Fordham, from where he transferred after his sophomore season, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game, including a 19-point, 14-rebound effort in Saint Peter's 51-50 loss on Sunday.
Thursday night marks an unusual contest of sorts, as the Peacocks open MAAC play earlier than any season in the past, hosting Niagara at the Yanitelli Center. The contest came about due to Niagara having to move a date on their schedule during the offseason, and Saint Peter's looking for an additional home game.
"It's twofold," Dunne said of his having to play an early conference game. "Normally, you want to get the kinks out and try to build up toward league play, but for me, I think the fact that we could get the home game superseded everything else."
Awaiting the Peacocks will be a Niagara team that has only competed in one game thus far, a 78-45 loss to Pittsburgh last Friday at the Petersen Center. Despite losing Antoine Mason, the MAAC's leading scorer last season, Purple Eagles head coach Chris Casey has a young roster with a promising future, headlined by a trio of deceptively strong guards in Emile Blackman, Wesley Myers and Ramone Snowden.
"They're really long and athletic," Dunne said of Niagara. "He (Casey) seems to be recruiting a particular type of player there. They played hard against Pitt, and we need our guys to play hard and focus more, especially over the last 4-7 minutes. I think it's going to be a war, to be honest with you."