March Madness: Saint Peter’s beats Purdue, is first No. 15 seed to reach Elite Eight
Doug Edert hopped on the press table and punched his fist in the air toward a delirious section of Saint Peter’s fans — aren’t they all — as his teammates thumped their chests, waved eight fingers and turned the mayhem into one perfect Peacock party.
Edert’s giant leap toward the roaring crowd might have been his only mistake of the night.
“You jumped on a table?” coach Shaheen Holloway asked later, then paused for some serious side-eye for comedic effect.
C’mon, coach. Let the Peacocks strut their stuff.
The upsets aren’t over yet, and the tiny commuter college in Jersey City, N.J., is still outperforming all March expectations. Next stop: the Elite Eight, a first-time destination for a No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament.
A look into how Saint Peter’s shocked the sports world by becoming the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
“We’re making history,” Edert said. “We’re looking forward to making more history.”
Daryl Banks III scored the tying and go-ahead baskets that pushed Saint Peter’s to the verge of the Final Four, the suddenly popular Peacocks thriving off a home-court edge to beat third-seeded Purdue 67-64 on Friday night in Philadelphia.
The Peacocks (22-11) added the Boilermakers to their string of upsets and will face No. 8 seed North Carolina, which beat No. 4 seed UCLA late Friday, in the East Regional final Sunday.
Saint Peter’s had the fans inside the packed Wells Fargo Center on its side from the opening tip, and the arena erupted when Banks tied the score at 57 on a turnaround jumper. He hit a driving layup with 2:17 left that made it 59-57.
The Peacocks kept their composure — hey, they’re used to these wins by now after knocking off No. 2 seed Kentucky and seventh-seeded Murray State — and held off a Purdue team that gamely tried to bully them inside.
“What they going to say now?” Holloway said about his team’s doubters, a group whose numbers are dwindling.
UCLA can’t hold on to the lead after North Carolina embarks on a late 12-2 run on the way to a 73-66 win in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
The Boilermakers (29-8), 12½-point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook, never led by more than six.
Almost 30 years to the day that Duke’s Christian Laettner stunned Kentucky with an overtime buzzer-beater to win a regional final at the since-razed Spectrum, Purdue and Saint Peter’s pulled off their own Philly classic.
Saint Peter’s fans made the 93-mile ride south to help pack the arena and give the Peacocks more of an edge than they usually have at their bandbox known as Run Baby Run Arena. Consider, just 434 fans were listed as the total attendance for Saint Peter’s home opener this season against Long Island University.
More than that turned out to give the team a Sweet 16 sendoff from campus this week.
“Everybody wanted tickets. I can’t get tickets for everybody,” Holloway said. “I’ll tell you what, man, I can’t believe the support that we’re having. This is unbelievable. Jersey City has been unbelievable for us.”
Even more basketball fans — yes, even those whose brackets the Peacocks helped bust — were suddenly rooting for Saint Peter’s, an unassuming campus just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.
Jaden Ivey buried an NBA-distance three-pointer with eight seconds left that pulled Purdue to within 65-64 and momentarily shushed the crowd.
No worries. Edert, whose wispy mustache and goofy persona earned him a fast-food chicken endorsement deal, sank two free throws to seal the win.
Edert then led the madness on the court and took it to the table. He saluted fans in the first few rows as the rest of the Peacocks mobbed each other and hugged before they gathered at the basket to celebrate — one more time — the biggest victory in program history.
“Yeah. I found a little opening and started moving stuff,” Edert said of his table hop. “I don’t know. I was so excited.”
The Peacocks dropped and made snow angels on the court, and soon there was a huge celebration of fans jamming the concourse chanting “S-P-U! S-P-U!” The Saint Peter’s students and fans celebrated as if they won a championship. Saint Peter’s had never won an NCAA tournament game and now, the Peacocks will just keep on dancing for at least one more game.
The school is tiny. The players are small. It makes no sense. Yet this is what March is about, right?
The Peacocks were the third No. 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 and Oral Roberts last year both failed to reach the regional final. Only two 12 seeds have made it to a regional final.
Nearly two-thirds of NCAA men’s basketball champions have been a top-three seed. But one program has given reason for Cinderellas to dream big.
Meanwhile, a Final Four berth remains elusive for Boilermakers coach Matt Painter and his perennial Big Ten contender.
“I wish I could have coached better, wish we could have played a little bit better,” Painter said. “But that’s part of competition.”
Banks led the Peacocks with 14 points, Clarence Rupert scored 11 and Edert had 10. Trevion Williams had 16 points and eight rebounds for Purdue.
The Boilermakers missed 16 of 21 three-point tries and committed 15 turnovers. Ivey was only four for 12 for nine points.
“I’m still in shock, honestly,” Williams said.
Join the club.
Before the game, Saint Peter’s players lay on their backs at half court as they did their stretching routine, most looking up at the big screen that replayed highlights from last weekend’s wins that got the team to Philadelphia.
By now, the Peacocks’ run is etched as the story of the tournament. Beating Kentucky and coach John Calipari was shocking enough. Eight days later, they’re still in the bracket.
UCLA basketball star Jaime Jaquez Jr. and his siblings, Gabriela and Marcos, signed a deal with Tricolor Holdings to use their name, image and likeness for marketing purposes.
The Peacocks lived by Holloway’s mantra: “I got guys from New Jersey and New York City. You think we’re scared of anything?”
They certainly weren’t scared of the Boilermakers.
In the first half, Purdue used its massive size advantage and dumped the ball inside to 7-foot-4 Zach Edey for easy dunks and Sasha Stefanovic hit three three-pointers to offset nine Boilermakers turnovers.
When Holloway talked about his players as New York and New Jersey tough, he should have thrown Philly into the mix. Rupert grew up in Philadelphia and heard the loudest ovation of all the Peacocks during lineup introductions. He scored all of his points in the first half and kept the Peacocks within four at the break.
“I feel like there’s no pressure,” Edert said.
No. 1 Kansas 66, No. 4 Providence 61
Remy Martin scored a season-high 23 points, and the Jayhawks did their part as the only No. 1 seed left in the NCAA tournament, holding the Friars to 17 first-half points and hanging on for a victory in Chicago to reach the Elite Eight.
Kansas (31-6) made it further than fellow No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Arizona, both ousted in the Sweet 16, and Baylor, whose title defense ended in the second round. The Jayhawks will face Miami, which beat Iowa State late Friday, in the Midwest Regional final Sunday.
Jalen Wilson added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Kansas, which is back in a regional final for the first time since 2018, when the Jayhawks reached their 15th Final Four. Coach Bill Self is seeking his fourth trip there since he arrived in 2003.
UCLA was moments away from reaching the Elite Eight for the second time in as many years before North Carolina surged late, dashing the Bruins’ dreams.
Kansas also moved ahead of Kentucky for most wins in Division I history with 2,354.
The Jayhawks led by 13 points early in the second half, let the advantage slip away and then regrouped. Fourth-seeded Providence (27-6) took a short-lived one-point lead, but Kansas responded by scoring seven straight points.
“I saw how excited they were getting. They started talking a little bit,” Wilson said. “I’m still confident in my team. We would never get rattled. We’ve seen every type of game, every type of situation. I’m just always confident in whatever comes our way.”
Big 12 Conference player of the year Ochai Agbaji scored a season-low five points. But with Martin and Wilson leading the way, the Jayhawks won their eighth straight game since a 74-64 loss at Texas Christian on March 1.
Al Durham led Providence with 21 points. But the Friars shot 33.8% and made just four of 23 three-point attempts as their best run since reaching the regional finals in 1997 under Pete Gillen came to an end.
No. 10 Miami 70, No. 11 Iowa State 56
Jordan Miller added 16 points on six-for-six shooting as No. 10 seed Miami more than held its own in a matchup of two of the tournament’s most suffocating defenses. The 11th-seeded Cyclones shot 32% from the field in the second half and finished with 18 turnovers.
With Charlie Moore directing the attack in his hometown, the Hurricanes (26-10) got their first win in the school’s fourth appearance in the Sweet 16. Next up is No. 1 seed Kansas on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four, where Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga took George Mason in 2006.
Iowa State (22-13) rode its hard-nosed defense into the Midwest Regional semifinals after it had just two wins last season. It forced 14 turnovers after Miami turned it over seven times in the first two rounds, but the Hurricanes shot 46% from the field. The Cyclones allowed 33.3% shooting over their first two tournament games.
Gabe Kalscheur scored 13 points for Iowa State, and freshman Tyrese Hunter had 13 points and seven assists. Izaiah Brockington finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
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