Wells Fargo Center–On National Peacock Day, St. Peter’s came onto the hardwood Friday night donning BLM tees on the front, and on the back—-it had Racism with an X through it. This will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on NCAA tournament history, the No. 15-seed Saint Peter’s Peacocks (22-11) upset the No. 3-seed Purdue Boilermakers (29-8) 67-64, to advance to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The Peacocks beat No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State, and No. 3 Purdue, so they certainly won’t be intimidated by any logo on a team’s chest.
“We’re making history and we look forward to making more history,” said Peacocks guard Doug Edert , who scored seven of his 10 points from the charity stripe line.
To put the Saint Peter’s victory in historical context, consider that no team ranked No. 13 or No. 14 and just two No. 12 seeds have advanced to the Elite Eight — Missouri in 2002 and Oregon State last year.
Purdue’s last Final Four was 1980, and this marked the program’s fourth Sweet 16 in five years. It also marked another missed opportunity. That came through in the reactions of Boilermakers players after the contest.
A 13-point underdog on Friday, the Peacocks were also was an 18.5-point underdog against Kentucky in the first round, making St. Peter’s the only team to win multiple games as a double-digit underdog in an NCAA tournament since it expanded in 1985, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. They were 8-point underdogs against Murray State in Round 2.
In the first half, both teams went up and down the hardwood trading baskets and getting very physical. Purdue took a 33-29 lead into the break.
“You’d think a No. 15 seed that wins a game would get rattled,” Saint Peter’s athletic director Rachelle Paul said. “But that’s a direct reflection of coach Holloway.”
In the second half, the Peacocks went into a zone defense and Purdue looked confused by the sudden adjustment. The space they had to operate for big man Zach Edey suddenly disappear, the Boilermakers’ offense soon unraveled. Purdue missed its first 10 3-pointers in that half, turned the ball over 15 times, they ended up going without a field goal from the 5:18 mark to the 25-second mark, and even that came on a putback by Mason Gillis.
“These guys, man,” Holloway said. “A bunch of kids that no one really wanted and thought they couldn’t play. This is unbelievable. I couldn’t be happier for them.”
It marked the sixth-worst shooting game for the Boilermakers from the floor all season and tied for the fourth-most turnovers committed in a game.
Over that stretch, Purdue’s offense stagnated and Holloway’s adjustment allowed Saint Peter’s to go ahead. Saint Peter’s went 11-for-11 from the free throw line over the final 4:02 and 17-for-18 in the second half.
Saint Peter’s had three scorers in double figures, led by Daryl Banks’ 14 points. The Peacocks went 10 deep, with forward Clarence Rupert pouring in 11 points but took a beating down low by the 7-foot-4 Edey and the 255-pound Trevion Williams who they didn’t have an answer for on the blocks.
Williams finished the night with 16 points and Edey chipped in 11 points but that wasn’t good enough to beat the Peacocks.
“We’re not a team that’s going to blow teams out. We try to keep it close. We try to make teams make mistakes down the stretch,” Holloway said. “When you play against teams like that who are supposed to win, when you keep it tight, certain things can happen. I told my guys to keep battling. I knew the ball was going to bounce our way. And it did.”
Along the way, there was another near-perfect defensive possession that finished with a long 3-point attempt by Purdue star Jaden Ivey as the shot clock expired. Ivey finished just 4-for-12 for nine points, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
Doug Edert was the high man for St. Peter’s with 10 points.
Edert hopped on the press table and punched his fist in the air toward a very loud section of Saint Peter’s fans – aren’t they all? — as his teammates thumped their chests and flashed eight fingers as the mayhem became a perfect Peacock party.
Will play either the No. 8 seed Tar Heels or No. 4 UCLA on Sunday.