The Peacocks strutted their stuff as far as they could in the NCAA Tournament. Saint Peter’s magical run came to an end in the Elite Eight round in a 69-49 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
North Carolina went on a 9-0 run to open the game and never looked back as they punched their ticket to New Orleans and ended Saint Peter’s bid to become the lowest seed to ever reach the Final Four. Saint Peter’s would have been the first school from the New York area to reach the NCAA semifinals since Seton Hall did so in 1989.
“Tough way to go out,” Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway said. “Words can’t describe and explain how happy I am for this group.”
As impressive as the Peacocks’ play in the tournament had been, they were just no match for the Tar Heels, who shot 25-of-61 from the field and 6-of-22 from beyond the arc. Saint Peter’s, a small school based in Jersey City, struggled from the floor shooting 18-of-60 on Sunday in the loss.
Fousseyni Drame was one of two members of the Saint Peter’s Peacocks that finished the game in double-digit scoring. He had 12 points off the bench and shot 4-of-8 on the night, while KC Ndefo finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Daryl Banks III and Hassan Drame each finished the night with 7 points.
The Peacocks just couldn’t find their rhythm in the first half and it wasn’t until the 15:52 mark that Drame finally got Saint Peter’s onto the board. A layup by Ndefo pulled his team within five moments later, but that was the closest that the Peacocks would get to the Tar Heels.
By the 6:58 mark, North Carolina had opened up a 15 point lead and by the end of the half, the Tar Heels led pretty securely 38-19. Carolina’s largest lead of the night was a 27 point advantage over Saint Peter’s.
The win by North Carolina sets the stage for a showdown with the Duke Blue Devils in the Final Four, marking the first time college basketball’s biggest rivals have met on its biggest stage. Until Saint Peter’s had shocked Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue, the focus had been on Mike Krzyzewski as he coached the final NCAA tournament of his career.
North Carolina played spoiler in the final regular-season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium for Krzyzewski by defeating the Blue Devils, 94-81. Now the Tar Heels will get another chance to dash Coach K and Duke’s hope for a fairy tale ending.
Sunday likely marked the final game for Holloway at Saint Peter’s.
The Peacocks coach is expected to be named the new head coach of Seton Hall’s basketball program following the departure of Kevin Willard last week. Holloway was endorsed by Willard after Seton Hall was bounced from the tournament and Holloway was a star point guard for the program during his playing days.
He had also served as an assistant for Willard’s first eight years in South Orange.