How Saint Peter’s can beat Purdue

PHILADELPHIA — The odds are in again, as they were against Kentucky and Murray State.

Saint Peter’s, a longshot who became the first 15-seed to reach the Elite Eight, is a 12.5-point underdog in Friday’s Sweet 16 game against No. 3 Purdue.

But Shaheen Holloway’s brave Peacocks have a chance, albeit a slim one, says a coach familiar with both teams. Cue Lloyd Christmas in “Dumb & Dumber”.

“The short answer is yes, I think they can win the game,” the manager said on condition of anonymity. “It all comes down to if they can control the way the game is played and the problem is Purdue are as good as any team in the country at controlling the way the game is played is played.

“You would be a fool to think that if you played 10 games Purdue wouldn’t win nine of them. But in the NCAA tournament you only have to beat them once.”

For Saint Peter’s to pull off their third upset in a row, the Boilermakers must be uncomfortable, the manager said. It has to create a chaotic and frenzied pace for the Peacocks’ speed and athleticism to matter. Purdue has the ultimate size and strength advantage. It will have the top player on the floor in the projected top 5 draft pick Jaden Ivey. St. Peter won’t have an answer for 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey or even 6-foot-10 forward Trevion Williams. And when it doubles them, the Big Ten school is lethal from deep, shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.

Purdue Boilermakers Center Zach Edey
Purdue Boilermakers Center Zach Edey
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St. Peter's KC Ndefo (11) and Fousseyni Drame (left) join Murray State's KJ Williams.
St. Peter’s KC Ndefo (11) and Fousseyni Drame (left) join Murray State’s KJ Williams.

“If you let Purdue play offense and let their stuff run, I don’t think anybody is going to beat them, let alone a team that has a size disadvantage that Saint Peter will have,” the coach said, alluding to the second-place offense of the boilermakers in terms of efficiency. “But Saint Peter can kill you. Sankt Peter can be very aggressive defensively. St. Peter’s can use his speed and athleticism to make you uncomfortable. They can recover defensively because they block a lot of shots.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Saint Peter’s can hurt Purdue, which has a defense that ranks 87th nationally and ranked midfield in the Big Ten in field goal percent defense and 3-point percent defense. The manager believes the Peacocks need to attack and force the Boilermakers to defend, so their size isn’t that important and St Peter’s lead in foot speed comes into play.

“This is not an elite defense team. Their size is impressive and if you let them adjust and use their size – they have a goalie in there in Edey – let them play team defense, they get a lot better,” said the coach. “Saint Peter’s needs to find a way not to allow Purdue to bully them.”

That will be key for Holloway’s team if they can get their way, like they did against Kentucky and Murray State, which helped neutralize the talent and size gap. In both games, the Peacocks played smarter, harder, and executed better. Now they must do it again against what is arguably the most talented opponent they have faced in this run.

“Styles make fights,” said the coach. “This game has to be frenetic and chaotic and aggressive for St. Peter’s to have a chance.” How Saint Peter’s can beat Purdue


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