INDIANAPOLIS — Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway said from the start that he didn’t bring his team to Indianapolis for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament to just show up and lose.
Holloway was right.
The Peacocks are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history after beating Murray State 70-60 on Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Peacocks will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Texas and Purdue.
“I’m just proud that these guys get to play on a different type of stage,” Holloway said. “NCAA tournament is every kid’s dream. Playing in the MAAC is a great tournament — I mean a great league. We play on ESPN+. We don’t get a lot of big TV games. So these guys get a chance to show their talent on the big stage. That’s what I’m proud of. These guys worked so hard for this moment. I’m just proud of them.”
Saint Peter’s, with an enrollment of about 2,300 students, is the feel-good team of the tournament so far. The Peacocks shocked No. 2 seed Kentucky in the first round and then led from start to finish in beating Murray State, which entered Saturday with only two losses on the season.
The Peacocks, who have the longest active winning streak in Division I at nine games, join Florida Gulf Coast (2013) and Oral Roberts (2021) as the only No. 15 seeds to reach the Sweet 16 since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Saint Peter’s won’t have far to travel for their Sweet 16 game because Jersey City, New Jersey, where the school is located, is only about 90 miles from Philadelphia.
“As far as the Sweet 16, again, it’s another quick turnaround,” Peacocks guard Doug Edert said. “And we’re not going to get too high. What we did is amazing, but it’s already in the past, and we’ve got to move on and start preparing for the next team.”
In just four seasons, Holloway has taken the Peacocks the furthest they’ve ever been in the tournament. Part of the reason is because his players have taken on the mindset of their head coach. Holloway was a dogged player who didn’t back down from anybody during his four-year career at Seton Hall. He even beat out the likes of Kobe Bryant to win MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game in 1996.
“That’s how I played, right? I played that way,” Holloway said. “I played to give it 110% all the time. I tell my guys all the time, you give me 100%, I will give you 200%. I was a decent player. I’m small. People counted me out. So I had something to prove every time. So I coached that way … My thing is this: It’s a give-and-take thing. If you give me hard work on defense, I’ll let you play offense. That’s us.
“Give me what I want on defense, offense, you can go out there. You don’t come out of the game playing for me for making mistakes on offense. You come out of the game for making mistakes on defense. That’s just how it is.”
The Peacocks blocked seven shots and held Murray State to 34.6% shooting and 19 points below their season average in points.
“I’m going to say this. It’s going to come off a little crazy. I got guys from New Jersey and New York City,” Holloway said. “You think we’re scared of anything? You think we’re worried about guys trying to muscle us and tough us out?”