By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - Saint Peter’s was appearing in their first national tournament semifinal since 1968. Back then, the Armory was home, and the Peacocks of Don Kennedy had come off a big win over tenth-ranked Duke. The National Invitation Tournament semifinals saw Saint Peter’s come up short against Kansas at Madison Square Garden. On Wednesday evening, the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament was the order, with Furman invading the friendly confines of Yanitelli Center in front of a number of former Peacocks, including some from that 1968 team.
They, the fans, and other alums were not to be disappointed.
Saint Peter’s never trailed as they routed Furman, 77-51. The Peacocks will now travel to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for the CIT championship Friday evening.
First five possessions:
Saint Peter’s: Missed field goal, missed field goal, field goal, three-point field goal, shot clock violation
Furman: Turnover, turnover, missed field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal
Defensive-minded Saint Peter’s made their mark early, forcing turnovers on the first two Furman possessions en route to a game-opening 15-0 run.
Saint Peter’s, known for a deliberate style of play, ran on opportunity, with excellent results. At the four-minute media timeout in the first half, the Peacocks led 34-8. If you were John Dunne, you would want to bottle this. Furman, especially leading scorer Devin Sibley, found its range on an 11-3 run to close the stanza, but at halftime, still trailed 37-19.
Possessions: Furman 31, Saint Peter’s 30
Offensive efficiency: Saint Peter’s 123, Furman 61
Furman desperately needed a good start to begin the second half, and got one by scoring eight of the first ten points after the intermission. With 17:47 remaining in regulation, the Paladins trailed by only a dozen, 39-27. Minutes later, Nnamdi Enechionyia buried multiple threes in transition, and suddenly, the lead was back to 24. Having multiple contributors in the offense made Saint Peter’s a nightmare to defend on this evening.
It would not get better for Furman’s interim coach, Bob Richey. Daniel Fowler, his most effective player in the second half, picked up his fourth foul with just under 12 minutes to play, his team looking at a 27-point deficit at that juncture. Down the stretch, Sibley would heat up for Furman, but the Paladins were in no position to challenge, as the Saint Peter’s offense was running on all cylinders.
Possessions: Furman 66, Saint Peter’s 64
Offensive efficiency: Saint Peter’s 120, Furman 77
Effective field goal percentage: Saint Peter’s 69, Furman 44
Free throw rate: Saint Peter’s 28, Furman 15
Offensive rebound percentage: Saint Peter’s 26, Furman 11
Turnover rate: Saint Peter’s 22, Furman 21
What Saint Peter’s did well: A little of everything. The Peacocks shot, rebounded, and defended in arguably their most complete performance of the campaign, at an opportune time.
What Furman did well: Make a run in a tough road situation. Down 26 in the first half, the Paladins whittled their deficit to 12 early in the second half.
Keys to victory:
Furman cut a 26-point first half deficit to 12 early in the second half. However, Saint Peter’s answered right back, regained their momentum and rebuilt the lead.
A staple of the Peacocks’ success all year, the defense was on display Wednesday, and a main reason for this one-sided victory. It wasn’t as much about schemes, as head coach John Dunne noted, “the effort and energy tonight was as good as it has been all season.”
The home crowd.
Fans do not win games. Regardless, Dunne and his players greatly appreciated the support and seemed to feed off their enthusiasm.
Running the offense.
Saint Peter’s struggled on the offensive end in their last two games. From tip to buzzer Wednesday, the offense was a well-oiled machine. “Offensively we were under control, made good decisions and were aggressive offensively from the start,” Dunne said.
Saint Peter’s improved to 22-13 while Furman ends the season at 23-12. The Peacocks have now won 10 of their last 11, the lone setback during that streak being a 73-65 setback to Iona in the semifinal round of the MAAC Tournament in Albany.