Saint Peter’s made NCAA Tournament history on Friday by becoming the first No. 15 seed ever to advance into the Elite Eight after knocking off No. 3 seed Purdue 67-64 in a Sweet 16 stunner. The Peacocks’ win over the Boilermakers gave them their second victory as a double-digit underdog in three 2022 March Madness wins, something no team before them had ever accomplished and set off celebrations all over the New Jersey area and beyond. They will face off against either No. 4 seed UCLA or No. 8 seed North Carolina on Sunday in the East Regional final.
The Peacocks’ NCAA Tournament run to this point already put them in historic company after shocking No. 2 seed Kentucky in the first round as an 18.5-point underdog, signifying one of the largest upsets in the history of the Big Dance. Their win over Purdue as a 13-point dog put them alone atop the great Cinderella stories, though, as it pulled off what the two other No. 15 seeds who had previously made the Sweet 16 — Oral Roberts and Florida Gulf Coast — could not: survive and advance.
“I said ‘What are they going to say now?’ Anybody got something to say?” Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway said on a CBS postgame interview responding to people who doubted his Peacocks. “They say can’t do that, Cinderella, underdog, this, that. . . I’ve got a bunch of guys who just play basketball and have fun. That’s all we do.”
And so it was fitting that on National Peacock Day, it was the Peacocks of Saint Peter’s that pulled off one of this tournament’s biggest surprises, besting 2002 Missouri’s record — then a No. 12 seed — as the lowest-seeded team to make the Elite Eight. They got 14 points from leading scorer Daryl Banks III, 11 points from Clarence Rupert and 10 off the bench from mustached superhero Doug Edert.
It was on the defensive end, though, where they won it. Facing off against a Purdue team that owned the No. 1 offense in adjusted efficiency according to KenPom.com metrics, they held the Boilermakers to 23-of-54 shooting from the field, 5-of-21 from 3-point range and forced 15 turnovers. It marked the sixth-worst shooting game for Purdue from the floor all season and tied for the fourth-most turnovers committed in a game.
“They beat us like they beat the other two teams: strong will, grimy, tough, into ya,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “Shaheen Holloway has done an unbelievable job at Saint Peter’s.”
Purdue star and potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick Jaden Ivey did his darndest to put Purdue in a position to win in regulation or force an extra period, hitting a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds remaining to close the deficit to one point and rimming out a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. However, he scored just five points in the second half and the Boilermakers stumbled to the finish line, scoring just two field goals in the final five minutes. Ivey finished with 11 points, while Trevion Williams had 16 points and big man Zach Edey had 11 points.
“We’re not a team that’s going to blow teams out. We try to keep it close. We try to make teams make mistakes down the stretch,” Holloway said. “When you play against teams like that who are supposed to win, when you keep it tight, certain things can happen. I told my guys to keep battling. I knew the ball was going to bounce our way. And it did.”