Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saint Peter's proves it can be force to be reckoned with in MAAC

John Dunne and his staff pause for a quick chat during Johnny Bach Classic at Fordham, where Peacocks won two of their three games last weekend. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

The turnaround time was fast. There was little time to agonize and look back on what had transpired.

Saint Peter’s had been beaten handily by Fordham on Saturday. The next afternoon, a meeting with Fairleigh Dickinson, to whom they lost a year ago, was on the horizon. There was concern on the part of head coach John Dunne on the quick turnaround.
A coach can scout, game plan and put the players in the best possible position to succeed. Other than that, one cannot be certain how well they will execute. In the third game of the Johnny Bach Classic at Fordham last weekend, Dunne was fortunate to witness an outstanding team performance. His Peacocks, after a close early going, broke open the contest to post an 84-58 victory over FDU. Five players were in double figures, with senior guard Trevis Wyche leading the way with 17 points.
The offensive explosion, coupled with owning the boards by a 40-21 margin, were reasons for optimism for Dunne. There was another area he chose to cite as the difference: Turnovers.

“We turned it over a lot on Saturday,” Dunne said. “Limiting turnovers is something we addressed coming into this game. We did a good job caring for the ball.” Against the Rams, Saint Peter’s was guilty of 26 miscues in a 63-41 loss. The FDU game saw the Peacocks commit just five turnovers for an outstanding nine percent turnover rate.
Not to be discounted was a perimeter game that saw Saint Peter’s hit ten of their 23 attempts from three-point range, a 44 percent rate. Good ball movement resulted in some great looks the Peacocks took to their advantage. “We have some skill guys,” Dunne said, “that can hit that outside shot.” Wyche hit 3-of-4 from deep. Antwon Portley started hot, but the percentages caught up. Regardless, his 3-of-7 from long range highlighted a 12-point outing.
Saint Peter’s is far from one dimensional. Quadir Welton, a 6-foot-7 senior, provides a strong inside presence. Welton scored 12 points with nine rebounds. He proved to be the proverbial ‘space eater,’ clogging the middle and cutting off any of FDU’s inside effectiveness.

“Quadir was second team all conference last year,” Dunne said. “He is a preseason all-conference pick this year and really provides for a strong presence inside.”
Dunne was relaxing outside the team locker room as we spoke. He fist bumped and commended each player as they sporadically filed out of the locker room. He spoke of the resiliency of this group. “Opening night, we led Lafayette and blew a comfortable lead late in the game,” Dunne noted. “We bounced back in a nice way to get two of three here. Today, we beat an FDU club that is talented and will have a good year.”
Dunne went on to discuss the MAAC. “The conference is strong,” he said. “Monmouth and Siena are at the top. After that, there is a group with Iona (whom the Peacocks entertain December 2) and Manhattan to name a few that can be heard from and make a run. I like to think we are in that group as well, but it is a very competitive conference.”
For Saint Peter’s, this was a performance Dunne would love to bottle. As noted, the uncertainty of coaching, how your team will respond, is the challenge.  However, it was evident the Peacocks have a number of options available, are far from an easy out, and are certainly a team to watch in the MAAC.

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