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Is Saint Peter’s a MAAC contender after upset win over Iona?

Daryl Banks III scored 25 points to lead Saint Peter’s to an exciting 75-74 win against Iona on Friday night.

After a non-conference schedule that included tough road games against St. John’s, Providence and UConn, Saint Peter’s began their MAAC slate on the road against the four-time defending conference champion Iona. The Peacocks were picked to finish ninth in the MAAC before the season. As of late, however, there has been a good reason to believe they could exceed that projection.

Saint Peter’s points per game have increased 12 points since the beginning of the season as the Peacocks’ offense is beginning to click. Defensively, there are significant improvements in defending shots and rebounding as Saint Peter’s is up to 40 boards per game. Add in the consistency from young players like brothers Hassan and Fousseyni Drame, and the Peacocks were beginning to gel going into conference play.

This brings us to Friday night in New Rochelle, NY. Saint Peter’s looked outclassed in the second half as they fell behind by as much as 17 points. From that point on, Saint Peter’s went on a 21-4 run to finish the game to upset conference favorite Iona 75-74. Daryl Banks III scored a game-high 25 points, including a scintillating coast-to-coast layup as time expired to give the Peacocks the win.

“I knew there were five seconds on the clock, and I had to make a play,” Banks III said. “I was ecstatic. Honestly, in the moment, right away, I didn’t even realize we had won. It hit me right then and there. It was a big-time moment.”

The impressive aspect of the win was not only Banks but also Saint Peter’s team defense in the victory. In the final 9:34 of the game, the Peacocks forced five turnovers and outrebounded Iona 15-10. Of the 15 rebounds, Saint Peter’s grabbed five offensive rebounds, which gave the team extra possessions to work on cutting the lead. KC Ndefo, who missed the first two games of the season, continues to be an X-Factor as he grabbed nine rebounds, including three offensive, along with four steals and four blocks.

What makes this team interesting is that every game, it seems as if it is someone different raise their game. Against Iona it was Banks III, but this season there have been good performances from Doug Edert, Matthew Lee, Aaron Estrada, along with others. Good teams in college basketball do not feature just one person accomplishing the heavy lifting. There are usually multiple sources of offense. For the Peacocks, you have players capable of going on a run and picking up the slack for their teammates.

At 1-0, Saint Peter’s find themselves at the top of the MAAC standings. A win over a dominant MAAC team in Iona, whom Saint Peter’s hadn’t defeated in ten straight matchups, is a signal that things may be changing for the Peacocks. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference may be the most wide-open in years. With this win, Saint Peter’s could be proving to be a dark horse team in the conference. With those tough non-conference games, the underclassmen on the team got a taste of college basketball early. Heading into MAAC play, they are now ready for the grind of conference play.

Eyes need to stay peeled on Saint Peter’s going forward.

What’s Next for Saint Peter’s

The Peacocks open their MAAC home schedule against Marist on Sunday at the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City, NJ. Game time is 2 p.m.

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow DoubleGSports.com writer Jason Cordner.
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