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March 25, 2022

Saint Peter's does the impossible in South Philly, advancing to Elite Eight

Insert Rocky reference here.

The small Jesuit school of Saint Peters was likely a team you google searched after they unseated Kentucky in the first round last week. And now, win or lose Sunday in the Elite Eight they will be indelibly tied to the city that loved underdogs like no other.

Against a heavily favored Purdue squad at the Wells Fargo Center, Saint Peters went toe to toe with a Big 10 behemoth (and their 7-foot-4 center Zach Evey), the Peacocks swung a victory for the ages, besting the Boilermakers in an epic 67-64 Sweet 16 victory.

Holding their own in the first half was impressive enough for a school whose entire athletic budget is smaller than Kentucky head coach John Calapari's salary, but the Peacocks continued to create turnovers and take Purdue completely out of their comfort zone in the early part of the second half.

The Peacocks overcame a blown four-point lead near the midpoint of the second stanza as well as a six-point deficit of their own to take the lead back when Fousseyni Drame drained a three at the 6:30 mark.

The two teams were on the seesaw for much of that last six minutes, with Daryl Banks putting St. Peters ahead with a probing layup — followed by a defensive stand that sent Hassan Drame to the line where his two free throws put the Peacocks head by two possessions.

Needing to simply hold on for the longest 90 seconds any of the 20,000 fans (80% of which were rooting their butts off for the North Jersey Cinderellas), the Peacocks exchanged free throws with the Boilermakers, clinging to that four-point edge with 42 ticks remaining.

With eight seconds to go, Jaden Ivey hit a three to get the game to a single point but the fundamentals first Peacocks made their trips to the charity stripe count to ice the game.

Saint Peters plays with style. Not only do they employ a bizarre and relatively rare mass substitution strategy that sees Shaheen Holloway put in an entirely new five player group, but they made plays:

The Peacocks played team-first basketball, with nine players scoring at least three points and none more than Banks' 14.

Hailing from Jersey City, the crowd was more than friendly in South Philly, with fans for both UCLA and UNC understandably interested in the outcome (and hoping against hope to face a No. 15 seed in the Elite Eight).

So get ready for another two days of Peacock madness — and for yet another Philly favorite team to add to a rich tapestry of underdog stories from the City of Brotherly love.

The Elite Eight tips off Sunday evening in Philly. The Peacocks will be underdogs again, playing the winner of UCLA and North Carolina.

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