Sunday, February 14, 2016

Saint Peter's fights off Canisius to win third straight

Trevis Wyche's 17 points tied for game high as Saint Peter's won third straight, holding off Canisius, 61-57. (Photo courtesy of Dave Musil via Saint Peter's University Athletics)

JERSEY CITY, NJ -- A five-game losing streak dropped Saint Peter's from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference lead to the middle of the pack entering a four-game homestand that stood to make or break the season.

Three-quarters of the way through that stretch, the Peacocks (11-13, 9-6 MAAC) have emerged with their third straight win, getting a pair of clutch three-pointers from Antwon Portley and Trevis Wyche in the final minutes to complete a season sweep of Canisius, (11-16, 6-10 MAAC) defeating the Golden Griffins by the final of 61-57 at the Yanitelli Center.

"It's just about trying to get wins right now," said head coach John Dunne as Saint Peter's moved back into sole possession of fourth place in the MAAC standings, a half-game ahead of Manhattan, who comes into Jersey City on Wednesday. "Clearly, we weren't at our best offensively, but we gutted it out. Earlier in the year, I don't know if we would have won this game, but I think our team is growing up."

On an afternoon where the front line of Quadir Welton and Rodney Hawkins was extremely limited by foul trouble, combining for just nine points and nine rebounds, the Peacocks relied on their backcourt to pull out a victory over a scrappy Canisius team, as Antwon Portley and Trevis Wyche each amassed 17 points to lead all scorers.

With the score 52-51 in favor of the Golden Griffins after Kassius Robertson knocked down a three-pointer reminiscent of the game-winner Zach Lewis hit for Canisius in this building last season, Portley responded with a triple of his own, which gave the Peacocks the lead for good inside of two minutes remaining.

"We were coming, we were just pushing the ball in transition," said Portley of the setup that led to his heroic shot. "I was coming off the screen looking to attack, because we were in the bonus. They didn't want to foul us, so I was coming and they backed up off the arc. I believed in myself to knock down the shot."

After Saint Peter's got a stop at the other end to preserve their newfound two-point cushion, Dunne instructed Wyche to hold the ball in the open floor to kill some of the clock. The junior point guard did just that, but not before ultimately burying a three from just behind the right arc, pushing the Peacock advantage to five with less than a minute to go. Canisius would get a three from Malcolm McMillan to get within two, but Portley and Wyche's free throws immediately thereafter sealed the outcome.

"We had a great chance to win," said Canisius head coach Jim Baron. "We came back and fought the fight, made some plays, made some shots, but they made some big shots down the stretch, so you've got to give them credit. You've got to make shots to win games, and they did."

By sweeping the Golden Griffins, Saint Peter's held their offense, which ranks among the MAAC leaders, to their lowest point totals of the season between today's 57 points and the 53 points that the Peacocks surrendered in a 17-point victory on January 9 in Buffalo.

"I think we've done a good job keeping them out of transition," said Dunne. "We've been locked in and controlling the paint on them. At the end of the day, we did a really solid job defensively, especially when we're not scoring. We kept our composure and discipline on the defensive end for the most part."

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