Nick Griffin's three-pointer to start second half broke 30-all tie and started 24-6 run that vaulted Saint Peter's to victory over Monmouth Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose of Hoops)
JERSEY CITY, NJ -- Three days removed from a loss to Fairfield in their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener, Saint Peter's sought an opportunity to right the ship upon returning home to the Yanitelli Center. The other issue the Peacocks had was Monmouth, their opponent Sunday afternoon, was in a similar predicament after dropping their first conference game Thursday at Quinnipiac.
It was Saint Peter's who restored balance to their ledger, using their trademark defense and a 24-6 run to open the second half to their advantage, completing a wire-to-wire 77-64 victory over the Hawks to head into 2018 on a winning note.
"We're really excited about the win," head coach John Dunne assessed as the Peacocks (7-6, 1-1 MAAC) got 17 points from Nick Griffin and 15 from Nnamdi Enechionyia, plus a 7-of-10 effort from three-point range in the second half to hand Monmouth their second straight loss to open the MAAC slate. "We started making shot early and were playing well, and then they amped up their energy and got us on our heels a little bit. But I liked our guys' focus at halftime, and when we came up, I thought we just played really, really well, moving it, screening it, sharing it, being selfless."
Saint Peter's took the initiative in the opening minutes as well, establishing a 19-6 lead as Monmouth (4-10, 0-2 MAAC) struggled to defend the Peacocks, leading to head coach King Rice switching the Hawks into a four-guard lineup anchored by junior Micah Seaborn. The change in tactics worked, as Seaborn willed the visitors back into the game, scoring the last five points of the opening stanza to knot the score at 30 going into the locker room.
Monmouth kept pace with the Peacocks over the first few minutes of the second half, until Seaborn went down to the floor with 17:02 remaining in the game, clutching his left ankle. He did not return, and exited the locker room in a walking boot after the game. That, coupled with Saint Peter's connecting on each of their first four three-point attempts out of the intermission, spelled the death knell for the two-time reigning MAAC regular season champions as they trailed by double digits for all but 17 seconds after Seaborn's departure.
"It all starts with the senior and the upperclassman leadership," Dunne said of Saint Peter's retooling following the graduation of four seniors from last season's CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament championship outfit. "I think they saw the importance of it being in the program for the last two years, what it did for us last year, and what it brought to the table for us. They've been all business. These guys take it seriously, they trust us coaches, and they go out and they just work really hard to execute the game plan. They know what our expectations are and it's getting better and better, so we're very pleased."