Cinderella continues to dance: 15 seed Saint Peter’s takes down Purdue 67-64 to reach Elite Eight

  • Saint Peter’s Doug Edert celebrates after Saint Peter’s won a college basketball game against Purdue in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

  • Saint Peter's Doug Edert (25), Hassan Drame (14) and Matthew Lee (15) celebrate after Saint Peter's won a college basketball game against Purdue in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

PHILADELPHIA — 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 and flashed eight fingers as the mayhem became a perfect Peacock party.

Edert’s giant leap toward the roaring crowd might have been his only mistake of the night.

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“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, New Jersey, is still outperforming all March expectations. Next stop: the Elite Eight, a first-time destination for a No. 15 seed in 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 brink of the Final Four, the suddenly popular Peacocks thriving off a home-court edge to beat third-seeded Purdue 67-64 on Friday night.

The Peacocks (22-11) added the Boilermakers to their string of upsets and will face North Carolina in the East Region final on 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 game 57-all 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.

The Boilermakers (29-8), 12 1/2-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 LIU.

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 3 with 8 seconds left that pulled Purdue 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 win 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 snowmen 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 like they won a championship. Saint Peter’s had never won an NCAA Tournament game and now, they’ll 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.

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 3-pointers and made 15 turnovers. Ivey was only 4 of 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.

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.

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 3s to offset nine 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 Philly 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.

MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION

Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey traveled from Connecticut after her team practiced Friday to watch her son Jaden play in his first Sweet 16. She had a car waiting for her after the Irish’s practice to make the 2 1/2-hour trip. Notre Dame faces North Carolina State in the women’s Sweet 16 on Saturday morning.

NORTH CAROLINA 73, UCLA 66

PHILADELPHIA — Caleb Love hit game-tying and go-ahead 3-pointers 37 seconds apart and North Carolina moved within a victory of its 21st Final Four, beating UCLA in a matchup of power programs.

Love, a sophomore, finished with a career-high 30 points, including six 3s and two game-clinching free throws with 7.8 seconds left. He scored 27 of Carolina’s 45 points in the second half, including one stretch of 10 straight that kept the Tar Heels (27-9) in the game.

Love’s go-ahead 3 came with 1:03 left and marked the last of 14 lead changes in the game that was also tied eight times.

Fourth-seeded UCLA (27-8) fell two wins short of its 20th Final Four. Last year’s season ended on a shot from near half court by Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs. This time, Love did in the Bruins, who got 16 points from Jules Bernard and 15 from Tyger Campbell.

MIDWEST REGION

KANSAS 66, PROVIDENCE 61

CHICAGO — Remy Martin scored a season-high 23 points and Kansas did its part as the only remaining No. 1 seed, holding Providence to 17 first-half points and hanging on to reach the Elite Eight.

The Jayhawks (31-6) will face either Miami or Iowa State in the Midwest Region final on Sunday.

Jalen Wilson added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Jayhawks, who are back in a regional final for the first time since 2018, when they reached their 15th Final Four. Coach Bill Self is seeking his fourth trip there since he arrived in 2003.

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 it slip away, and then regrouped. Fourth-seeded Providence (27-6) took a short-lived one-point lead, but Kansas responded by scoring seven straight.

Al Durham scored 21 points for the Friars, who shot 33.8%.

MIAMI 70, IOWA STATE 56

CHICAGO — Kameron McGusty scored 27 points and Miami advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time, using its swarming defense to beat Iowa State.

Jordan Miller added 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting as No. 10 seed Miami more than held its own in a matchup of two of the tourney’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.

Gabe Kalscheur scored 13 points for Iowa State (22-13), and freshman Tyrese Hunter had 13 points and seven assists. Izaiah Brockington finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

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