John Dunne has watched his Saint Peter's team win six straight to enter MAAC Tournament on a roll, and Peacocks now are charged with maintaining their surge in quarterfinals Friday. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
Winners of six straight and owners of the best scoring defense in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Saint Peter's is not only playing their best basketball at the most opportune time, but also reversing what they feel was a lackluster non-conference season.
"We didn't have as good of a non-conference as we would have liked to have," head coach John Dunne conceded as his Peacocks (18-12, 14-6 MAAC) open the conference tournament in Friday night's quarterfinal matchup against Canisius at 9:30 p.m. from Albany's Times Union Center. "I think we were just feeling our way because we had such a new team. A new team has to kind of work its chemistry together, and I think it took us some time to do that."
While there are some out there who knock Saint Peter's for playing at a slow tempo and favoring a knock-down, drag-out style to bottle up its opponents, the Peacocks are getting the job done defensively and doing so with a suffocating system that begins and ends with a senior guard who does not get enough credit for what he brings to the table.
"I'm not one to politick for things, but I really believe Chazz (Patterson) is deserving (of Defensive Player of the Year honors)," said Dunne. "I've been in this league a long time, and guard don't get recognized enough for what they bring to the table."
"He's the best defensive player on our team," Dunne elaborated, highlighting the impact Patterson has made in locking down the opposing team's best player night in, night out. "He's a glove defensively, he's always on the team's best player. It's not one-on-one out there, but at the end of the day, he does a good job. I think he would get robbed if he wasn't Defensive Player of the Year."
The Peacocks are still flying under the radar this weekend, largely due to Monmouth's dominance in the MAAC this season and the perennial threat that defending champion Iona possesses. Regardless, Saint Peter's will stick with what has brought them to the dance, a commitment to team-first basketball that has reflected itself in their statistics.
"As a coach, you're always preaching 'move the ball, share the ball, be team-first," Dunne said. "It's up to the players to have chemistry and buy in, so all the credit goes to those guys. We really moved the ball well, found some shots, and I think our percentages; MAAC-only stats, our percentages really prove that point."