Trevis Wyche led all scorers with 20 points and eight assists as Saint Peter's was able to ring in 2017 by defeating Monmouth at Yanitelli Center. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
JERSEY CITY, NJ -- Following a start where his Saint Peter's team surrendered the first seven points to preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference favorite Monmouth, Trevis Wyche recognized what needed to be done the rest of the way.
"We all know they're a pretty good team, so I just wanted to gather everybody up and just say 'we gotta stay together over 40 minutes, because at any point, they could make a run,'" the senior point guard remarked. "We just took their first hit and settled in, and from there, it was game on."
By the end of the night, it was Wyche who left the strongest impression at the Yanitelli Center, as his 20 points and eight assists were most instrumental in the Peacocks posting a convincing 71-61 victory over the visiting Hawks, sending Monmouth to their third consecutive loss after starting 10-2.
"He's become a leader," head coach John Dunne said as Wyche scored 17 of his 20 points after halftime to give Saint Peter's (6-7, 2-1 MAAC) a share of the MAAC lead along with four other schools. "When he was a freshman, I used to beg him to try to be a leader and take control. Sometimes that's hard to do when you have upperclassmen with strong personalities, but at the end of the day, you don't have to be an overly vocal guy to be a leader, and I think he's really settled into being a quiet leader. He's relishing these moments right now, and he's just playing at his pace."
On the whole, the Peacocks played at their pace as well, imposing their grinding, suffocating defensive will after spotting Monmouth (10-5, 2-2 MAAC) the 7-0 run that started the game. The Hawks were held to just three field goals over the final 13:04 of the first half, and reigning MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson struggled through a 4-for-17 shooting effort that left head coach King Rice searching for answers in the wake of a loss that now places Monmouth at .500 in league play heading into Friday's marquee matchup against Iona in West Long Branch, while Saint Peter's guard Chazz Patterson rose to the occasion on his defensive matchup.
"I definitely take more pride in stopping Robinson," Patterson said of his lockdown defense. "That's what I'm here to do. I was never a big scorer, so I'm fine with stopping the other team's best player if that's what's going to help us win."
"I was expecting our team to come out and try their hardest and really fight, and I didn't see that," Rice said after Monmouth went to the locker room trailing 27-19 at the intermission. "I thought we tried hard in stretches, but not enough today."
The Hawks attempted to quicken the tempo in the opening minutes of the second half, pulling within two before a 12-3 Peacocks run raised the deficit back to 11 points with 5:52 remaining on the clock. Trailing by 15 later in the second half, the visitors again fought back with an 11-2 spurt to draw within six, but could get no closer than that over the final 90 seconds of regulation.
"We were trying hard at that point," said Rice. "Anybody could come back, but it's hard to come back and win. We weren't able to get it done."
In all, nine of the ten players to see the floor for Saint Peter's scored, highlighting a balanced production Dunne praised as an integral part of the early success in a four-game gauntlet of sorts to open the MAAC season.
"The big key is, this year we can go to our bench and get a lift at times," Dunne intimated. "In the past, if we've gone down early, I never would have taken a guy like Quadir Welton out early. But the fact that we can put in Sam Idowu and he hits back-to-back threes and gives us a spark, I just think we had confidence from there."
Having assured themselves of no worse than a split against Iona, Manhattan, Monmouth and Siena to start the conference slate, the Peacocks now head to the Times Union Center Saturday night to face a Saints team that could be best described as a unit in flux. With Nico Clareth struggling in his sophomore season and Lavon Long now at the point guard spot for Jimmy Patsos' team, Siena is still finding themselves, and Saint Peter's will now have an opportunity to take advantage.
"We've just got to go up there with the mindset that we can beat anyone on any given night," said Dunne. "We're going to continue to give ourselves a chance by playing great defense with great activity. We've been really good with being low-turnover, and we're going to continue to grow in what we're trying to do as a team."