Shots weren’t falling, defense kept scoring and almost everything wasn’t going the right way -- until the second half.
The Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team added another dub for the Peacock nation, giving them one more reason to strut their pride. The battle rode out into an extra five minutes where SPU snatched a 93-86 victory over the Lafayette Leopards in an overtime thriller at the Yanitelli Center Wednesday night.
“These guys battled the whole time,” said Head Coach Shaheen Holloway. “These guys came back and played -- they believed.”
During the first half, it wasn’t looking too good.
Despite a 5-0 run early on, the Peacocks lost the lead and were trailing for some time, but was able to cut the lead to a point, 31-32, thanks to freshman forward KC Ndefo driving into the paint to slam the rock.
But shots still weren’t falling for SPU, and the Leopards were knocking down three-pointers despite the Peacocks putting their hands to their opponents’ faces.
SPU was getting outshot and flirted with taking back the lead. They went into the second half trailing at 33-40.
At the half, each Peacock -- Ndefo, freshman guard Dallas Watson, senior guard Davauhnte Turner, redshirt-freshman guard Manny Dixon, senior forward Mamadou Ndiaye, senior forward Samuel Idowu and redshirt-junior Cameron Jones -- were held down to below double-digit points.
But that wasn’t the case once the final handful of minutes winded down on the clock.
Lafayette got the jumpstart on SPU and held onto their 13-point lead with as little as eight minutes left in regulation -- which is when the Peacocks began to fight back.
Turner went off and led a 16-6 run with 7:09 remaining. Ndefo fed off of Turner’s -- and the crowd’s -- energy, swooping in for another slam dunk, and an and-one, to give the team its first lead since early in the first half.
Lafayette tied it up at 79-79, which ignited Turner to capitalize on the final possession, but he missed a jumper and slammed into the ground in attempt of an offensive rebound. Despite being carried off onto the bench, the senior guard still hopped right back into the game.
“When I went down I knew I was going to come back,” Turner said. “It was just some cramps. It never happened to me before though, so it’s actually crazy.”
“He never played this hard before,” Holloway sarcastically added. “That’s what playing hard does.”
In overtime, everything seemed to finally go the Peacocks’ way as they outscored the Leopards 14-7, capturing the 93-86 home victory.
Why It Happened
In the second half, it was almost as if a whole other team came out to play.
This team had more of a feel for the game and an idea on how their opponent worked. They didn’t let their frustrations drive their offense nor defense; instead they played smarter and harder, which helped everything -- eventually -- fall into place.
“They were just outplaying us and it came down to heart,” Turner said. “And that’s what it took in the end.”
Instead of taking unnecessary three-pointers and fancy dribbles to the basket, SPU realized later on that they have the assets to dominate in well-paced plays on offense.
The Peacocks dominated the most when they capitalized on good defense, which then transitioned into a good possession -- typically ending in a tough contested layup or an exhilarating slam dunk.
They figured out when and where to shoot as well as how to lockdown Leopards sharpshooter Justin Jaworski who had a game-high 28 points.
SPU was very eager to shoot the ball.
The team was shooting 7-19 in the field -- 36.8 percent -- compared to their opponent’s 10-22 with 6:24 minutes left in the first half. Though the numbers may not seem like much in text, it meant a whole lot during the game.
Fouls were also killing the Peacocks, giving the Leopards unnecessary opportunities to take back the lead and potentially snatch the win from them.
The men’s basketball team will stay at home in Jersey City as they await to face Delaware on Saturday at 6 p.m.