Monday, February 13, 2017

Saint Peter's 69, Manhattan 50: 4 Observations

RIVERDALE, NY -- A double-double from Quadir Welton, who led all players with 19 points and 14 rebounds, plus a 13-0 run early in the second half, was all Saint Peter's needed to post their fourth straight win over Manhattan in a 69-50 drubbing of the Jaspers at Draddy Gymnasium Sunday evening. As the Peacocks move back into sole possession of third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings, here are a quartet of takeaways from the transpirings on both sides from a game that ignited the stretch run for the visitors, while the home team Sunday is once again left to ponder what could have been:

1) Senior leadership.
Welton's double-double was supplemented by a versatile effort from Trevis Wyche, who racked up eight points, five assists and three steals by simply not forcing the issue at either end of the floor, but rather affecting the game by doing all the little things.

"They've both been focused and they've both been ready to play every game," head coach John Dunne said of their mindset as they embrace the final go-round of their collegiate careers. "I think our team has taken the next step as far as being selfless and sharing the ball, and taking what the defense gives us."

"Chazz Patterson, to me, should be Defensive Player of the Year," he expounded, highlighting Saint Peter's other four-year stalwart and his contributions. "Welton and Wyche are playing like all-league players, and then you've got a guy like Cavon Baker; who is just with us the one year and is playing so selflessly right now, and he's given us such great sparks in a lot of games. It feels good when you're coaching guys like that."

2) Nick Griffin could be a valuable X-factor down the stretch.
The George Washington transfer has developed into a dead-eye shooter in his junior season, consistently ranking among the top ten in the MAAC's three-point field goal percentage leaders and giving the Peacocks an element that they have not really had in recent years. On Sunday, Griffin was the epitome of efficiency, scoring 17 points on just seven shots, missing only one and connecting on five of his six three-pointers.

"I see him in the gym late just shooting on his own with the gun, and I'm getting nervous that his legs are going to be tired," said Dunne of Griffin's self-determination to hone his craft. "Shooters need to get shots and get in rhythm, and he puts the work in, so I'm really happy for him."

Griffin has also helped revitalize the Saint Peter's offense, one that has shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc in each of their last four games; a statistic that MAAC observers would seldom relate to the program from Jersey City, but nevertheless one that has underscored just how much of a transformation has taken place.

"We have better shooters in the program," Dunne reiterated. "We have more options on the court, so if you're sharing the ball, you're going to get cleaner looks. When teams decide they want to take away our shooting, we have Welton and Wyche, who can get it done in the paint for us. I just think we're doing a really good job of playing selfless basketball and finding good shots."

3) A possible explanation for Manhattan's struggles.
As the Jaspers were held to just five field goals in the second half while shooting just 30 percent for the night, a glaring inability to convert under the basket reared its ugly head, and it was addressed by Steve Masiello after the final buzzer.

"I don't know what it is, I have to look at a ton of things, but we're having a really tough time making layups," he observed. "We were 3-for-14 on layups, and that's something we've got to fix. What's happened is we're playing hard, the ball doesn't go in and a little air comes out of the balloon. They hit a shot or they hit a three, we get a little deflated, and we've got to learn to capitalize on some of the easy opportunities we've had. At the end of the day, you've got to make shots. We obviously didn't do that in the second half."

4) Challenged by the short turnaround?
Less than 48 hours after giving Monmouth all it could handle Friday night, Manhattan took the floor again Sunday and matched Saint Peter's in the first half before the Peacocks slowly pulled away. It is not the first time the Jaspers have had difficulty in handling a shorter preparation time, and Masiello conceded his team has had a hard time in that department.

"We've struggled with one-day prep," he lamented. "You look at our Canisius-Saint Peter's turnaround the first time, (in December) you look at our Monmouth-Siena turnaround, you look at Niagara-Canisius the one day and then Canisius on the back end, that's something that; attention to detail, we have to get. We're not quite there yet."

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