INDIANAPOLIS — Saint Peter coach Shaheen Holloway said early on that he didn’t bring his team to Indianapolis for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament to show up and lose.
Holloway was right.
The Peacocks head to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history after beating Murray State 70-60 on Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Peacocks will face the winner of Sunday’s game between Texas and Purdue.
“I’m just proud that these guys get to play on a different kind of stage,” Holloway said. “The NCAA tournament is every kid’s dream. Playing in MAAC is a big tournament – I mean a big league. We play on ESPN+. We don’t have a lot of big game shows. So these guys get to show off their talent on the big stage. That’s what I’m proud of. These guys have worked so hard for this moment. I’m just proud of them.”
Saint Peter’s, with an enrollment of around 2,300 students, has been the tournament’s welfare team so far The Peacocks shocked No. 2 seed Kentucky in the first round and then led from start in the end by beating Murray State, which entered Saturday with just two losses on the season.
The Peacocks, who have the longest active Division I winning streak at nine games, join Florida Gulf Coast (2013) and Oral Roberts (2021) as the only No. 15 seeds to reach the Sweet 16 since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Saint Peter’s won’t have much to travel for its Sweet 16 game because Jersey City, New Jersey, where the school is located, is only about 90 miles from Philadelphia.
“As for the Sweet 16, again, it’s another quick turnaround,” Peacocks guard Doug Edert said. “And we’re not going to get too high. What we’ve done is amazing, but it’s already in the past, and we have to move on and start preparing for the next team.”
In just four seasons, Holloway led the Peacocks the furthest they’ve ever been in the tournament, in part because his players embraced their head coach’s mindset. of anyone during his four-year career at Seton Hall. He even beat Kobe Bryant to win the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP in 1996.
“That’s how I played, wasn’t it? I played that way,” Holloway said. “I played 110 per cent all the time. I tell my guys all the time, you give me 100 per cent, I’ll give you 200 per cent. I was a good player. I’m small. People gave me 100 per cent. counted. So I had something to prove every time. So I coached that way… My thing is this: it’s a give and take thing. If you give I work hard on the defense, I let you play the attack. It’s us.
“Give me what I want in defense, in attack you can go for it. You don’t go out of play playing for me for making mistakes in attack. You go out of play for making mistakes in defense. C is just the way it is.”
The Peacocks blocked seven shots and held Murray State to 34.6 percent shooting and 19 points below their season scoring average.
“I’m going to say this. It’s going to sound a little crazy. I have guys from New Jersey and New York,” Holloway said. “You think we’re scared of something? You think we’re worried about guys trying to toughen us up and toughen us up?”