BOSTON – Coaches are not ones to look for moral victories, and John Dunne is no different. The St. Peter’s mentor has been to the mountain top at the school and is trying to get back there, and wins have been hard to come by since their NCAA Tournament run in 2011. Part of that journey means the record doesn’t matter right now, and the Peacocks fell to 2-4 on Saturday but have Dunne thinking positively.
“We lost the game, but I thought it was probably our most well-played game, including the two wins,” said Dunne.
St. Peter’s didn’t just have their chances in the 66-65 loss at Boston University. The Peacocks scored the first six points of the game and led throughout the first half. They had an answer every time the Terriers tried to charge back, to the point that for most of the first half the Terriers didn’t even get a possession where they could potentially tie the game. Up until a few minutes into the second half, the Peacocks still had answers, and even after losing the lead they stayed right there and rallied several times, ultimately tying it at 65 before a free throw after a questionable call provided the margin.
Dunne isn’t looking at the bright side for moral victories, however. Instead, he looks at reality and takes the long view. He knows that his team won’t get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, so while wins right now help, especially from a confidence standpoint, they aren’t the be-all, end-all for this team. They need to get better, and part of that means meshing better as they have eight newcomers to blend together, led by Fordham transfer Marvin Dominique.
For all his talent, Dominique has his flaws that can certainly hurt a team. He can play too much for show, and at one point it cost the Peacocks in the form of a technical foul for hanging on the rim. In addition, while he can be a threat from long range, he is a textbook example of the importance of shot selection, and that’s one reason Dunne was on him a lot during this game.
“He’s a really good player, but he settles for the three-point shot too much and he needs to drive the ball more,” said Dunne. “He’s really hard to stop when he has a lane to the basket, he’s either going to get fouled or get a good shot up on a rim.”
Dominique had 20 points on 6-10 shooting, but all of his misses were from long range as he was 1-5 from behind the arc. All but one of the misses were ones he settled for, as he did miss an open one late that Dunne didn’t have an issue with. He shoots just over 25 percent from long range but 48 percent from the field overall, so it’s not hard to see what Dunne is talking about.
With Dominique leading the way, offense seems to be less of a concern this season than last season, when the Peacocks struggled mightily to put points on the board. They averaged less than 60 points per game and shot over 41 percent from the field. This year, they average a little under 67 a game and are shooting 43 percent. They have several scoring threats, as Desi Washington is better, Fairfield transfer Jamel Fields can score and Quadir Welton is a threat inside, especially if he gets an offensive rebound. Freshman Trevis Wyche has proven to be a capable floor leader thus far, and they appear to have a sniper off the bench in Tyler Gaskins, who had 13 points on 4-5 shooting Saturday, including a couple of clutch baskets.
“We’ve got some guys that are capable offensive players this year,” said Dunne. “It’s just a matter of us sharing the ball, keeping the floor space, not settling for questionable shots.”
Next up for St. Peter’s is a trip to western New York for a pair of early MAAC games at Canisius and Niagara, before two more road dates at Seton Hall and Hartford. It’s a tough stretch, but not impossible, especially if Saturday is their best effort to date. It would be a sign that they’re getting better, as the staff wants them to, and perhaps they could pull out a win or two along the way. But even if they don’t, Dunne and his staff will be looking beyond the final score to see if the result is satisfactory, because that matters more than getting wins now. They want better play now to lead to wins in January and February, before they matter most in March.