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St. Peter’s: A serious challenger in the MAAC

February 24, 2017 Columns No Comments

After his team was thoroughly dismantled about a week ago, Marist coach Mike Maker played tribute to his opponent.

“He is one of the best coaches around, his school is fortunate to have him and I think the MAAC conference is fortunate as well,” Maker said.

Maker was referring to John Dunne, whose St. Peter’s club had defeated the Red Foxes 71-46 at Yanitelli Center. Several days later, St. Peter’s celebrated Senior Day with a resounding 74-55 victory over Fairfield. It was St. Peter’s fourth straight conference win to push their MAAC record to 12-6. The western New York swing to Niagara and Canisius will finish the regular season this weekend. The final stop before the tournament in Albany, a tournament observers feel, St. Peter’s is good enough to win.

In head-to-head meetings with conference regular season champion Monmouth, the series was a split. On January 2, St. Peter’s scored a 71-61 victory over the Hawks at Yanitelli Center. The rematch on February 3rd in West Long Branch saw the Hawks needing overtime to post a 71-70 victory. The two teams could be on a collision course.

St. Peter’s head coach John Dunne (Ray Floriani photo)

Dunne does not look ahead, preferring the time-worn coach speak of “taking it a game at a time and worrying about what we have to do.” What they do is employ a half court grind-it-out 63-possession pace, the most pedestrian in the MAAC. It works. The Peacocks are fourth in offensive efficiency at 108, while leading the conference with an eye-popping 94 defensive efficiency. They get a lead, they do not allow you a great deal of possessions to battle back.

While the defense has been a staple of success in Jersey City, the offense is no slouch. The efficiency is bolstered by a 53 percent effective field goal percentage and excellent care of the ball with a turnover rate of just 17 percent. St. Peter’s will often use four out and one inside on offense. 39 percent of their points come from beyond the arc. They do have an excellent inside presence in 6-8 senior Quadir Welton, who averages 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, both team highs. Senior Travis Wyche is the other double-digit scorer at 10.9 points per game. Contributions also come from redshirt junior guard Nick Griffin, senior guard Chazz Patterson, redshirt senior guard Cavon Baker, sophomore guard Antwon Portley and sophomore forward Samuel Idowu.

Patterson was called by Maker “the best defender in the conference.” The 6-3 senior played outstanding defense on Monmouth stalwart Justin Robinson in the St. Peter’s victory back in January. A very balanced team, it is not surprising if the leading scorer comes off the bench, as Baker (20 points) did in that win over Marist.

The only bump in the road was late January-early February. A three game losing streak with OT losses at Iona and Monmouth was followed by a two-point loss at home to Canisius. Following those setbacks, St. Peter’s went on their current win streak.

With the solid defense and offensive balance, St. Peter’s has a team that cannot be undersold in Albany. Dunne keeps the approach very practical. As he said after that Marist game, “We know there isn’t a team we can’t beat in this league. But we know there isn’t a team that can’t beat us if we do not maintain our focus.”

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