Chazz Patterson took just three shots from floor, but was impetus behind 13-0 second half run as Saint Peter's defeated Manhattan for first time in over five years, holding off Jaspers in 70-69 thriller. (Photo courtesy of Dave Musil via Saint Peter's University Athletics)
JERSEY CITY, NJ -- For all the talk about Fairfield, Manhattan, and Rider being potential spoilers in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, it seems as though Saint Peter's is flying under the radar as the regular season winds down.
Now winners of four straight after the Peacocks (12-13, 10-6 MAAC) wrapped up a sweep of their four-game homestand with a 70-69 takedown of two-time reigning league champion Manhattan, (11-14, 8-8 MAAC) Saint Peter's now has momentum and confidence firmly on their side with four games to go in their quest to wrap up a first-round bye at the Times Union Center that seemed, by all accounts, improbable at the start of the season.
"I think we're a confident group," said head coach John Dunne after his team scored their first win over Manhattan since January 23, 2011. "We're still a little bit fragile in the sense of, 'can we play with the big boys?' and today was a big win for us."
A 13-0 run late in the second half, catalyzed almost singlehandedly by Chazz Patterson, broke what had been a tight game throughout the evening into a comfortable advantage for the home team, who trailed 59-54 with 6:02 to play in regulation, only to emerge 67-59 leaders with 2:25 on the clock.
"I got a lot of good looks," said Patterson, who only took three shots from the floor in his 11-point outing, but all of them were successful attempts that resulted in eight consecutive points for the junior guard. "Initially in the first half, I knew those guys were going to fly me off the line a lot, so I was shot faking a lot, passing up shots, trying to get my teammates the ball. In the second half, my teammates were telling me to be more aggressive. They had confidence in me, I had confidence in myself."
But true to their resilient nature, the Jaspers did not go quietly into the night. A Rich Williams three-pointer cut the deficit to five, and a driving layup by Shane Richards made it a one-possession affair with just over a minute to go. Two missed front ends of one-and-ones by the Peacocks' Trevis Wyche left the door open for the visitors, but Manhattan was unable to capitalize, as a game-tying three by RaShawn Stores was intercepted in mid-air by Quadir Welton. Immediately after, Antwon Portley was fouled, and made a pair of free throws to extend the Saint Peter's lead back to five points.
Manhattan had one last rally in them after drawing within two on Tom Capuano's conventional three-point play, and within one after Portley made one of two at the foul line just before Zane Waterman converted two free throws. With the Jaspers looking to press as Saint Peter's inbounded, Patterson lobbed an outlet pass to a streaking Portley, who ran out the clock to preserve the Peacocks' fourth consecutive win.
"It was my idea to run that play in the huddle," an exuberant Patterson said of the final possession. "We knew they would face-guard us, so we figured we could get it over the top because they were double-teaming Trevis at the free throw line. I ran the baseline, made a great pass, and Antwon made a great catch."
Saint Peter's seeks their fifth straight win in less than 24 hours, as they travel to Quinnipiac in a rare, NHL-style back-to-back stretch that will secure a winning conference record if the Peacocks take care of business Thursday, an accomplishment not seen in Jersey City since Dunne led a senior-laden squad to the NCAA Tournament.
"We knew we had the talent, we knew we had the pieces if we stuck together and kept working hard," Dunne recollected after scoring his first win against Steve Masiello in 11 attempts. "We know the war we're in for tomorrow, but at the end of the day, we're going to go give it our all, we're going to play hard, and hope that we're victorious when the buzzer comes."