JERSEY CITY, NJ – The Saint Peter's men's basketball team closed out the 2017 calendar year with a perfect 4-0 record at the Yanitelli Center after a dominating second half performance against hOURglass Rival, Monmouth University, on New Year's Eve. The Peacocks outscored the Hawks, 47-34 in the second half, en route to a 77-64 blowout win, making the Peacocks 1-1 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play and 7-6 overall, heading into 2018.
Graduate guard, Nick Griffin (Rockville, MD/George Washington/Col. Zadok Magruder) scored a game-high, 17 points for the Peacocks while chipping in with two assists and his classmate, Nnamdi Enechionyia (Springfield, VA/Samford/St. James School), dropped a season-high, 15 points on 3-5 shooting from behind the arc, which tied his season-best for three-pointers made in a game. Cameron Jones (Fairless Hills, PA/Pennsbury) added 10 points off of the bench and recorded a Saint Peter's best three steals, while freshman guard, Elijah Gonzales (Portland, OR/Clackamas), who was coming off of a career-game, dished out a career-high, five assists in his first collegiate start.
Monmouth (4-10, 0-2) was led by All-MAAC guard, Micah Seaborn, who scored 16 points in 20 minutes of action, before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Austin Tilghman followed Seaborn with 10 points.
"I'm really excited about this win," said head coach John Dunne. "We started making shots early and we were playing well. Then they [Monmouth] amped up their anticity and we kind of got on our heels a little bit, but I liked the guys focus at halftime. I thought we played really well [in the second half] moving it, screening, sharing it, executing, being selfless, and knocking down shots. Once we extended the lead, we did an excellent job of taking time off of the clock and executing down the stretch."
The Peacocks got out to a hot start led by Enechionyia who scored the first five Peacock points of the day. A putback layup by Julian Powell (Baytown, TX/Lee College/Goose Creek Memorial) and a pair of threes by Mamadou Ndiaye (Laurel, MD/Oakland Mills) and Griffin helped set Saint Peter's largest lead of the first half at 17-4, at the 13:54 mark. Monmouth slowly chipped away at the Peacock lead, going on a 5-0 run, that made it a 19-11 game, and then a 7-0 run, that cut the Peacock lead to 23-22, with just under five minutes to go in the half. The Peacocks ended the Monmouth run when Powell made a layup coming from Gonzales' pocket pass, extending Saint Peter's lead to 25-22. Both squads exchanged five points, and Monmouth's Seaborn drained a deep three-pointer with under one minute left, knotting the game at 30 points all, entering halftime. Despite the hot start, the Peacocks cooled down late in the half, which led to only shooting 25 percent from the field and 20 percent from three.
The second half began just like the first, but only this time Saint Peter's didn't let the shooting die down as the Peacocks put on an early three-point clinic. After a missed open go-ahead three-point attempt by Monmouth, Griffin knocked in a three from the near corner right in front of the Peacock bench, breaking the tie at 33-30. Enechionyia followed up with back to back threes. After a three-point play by Quinn Taylor (Amarillo, TX/Tascosa) put the Peacocks up, 42-35, Enechionyia found the bottom of the net for another three, putting the Peacocks back up by 10 points, leading 45-35, three minutes into the half. The scoring clinic continued as Jones and Griffin both knocked in jumpers, and a fastbreak layup by Gonzales after a steal and pass from Jones, pushed the lead to 51-35. Griffin splashed another three-pointer for Saint Peter's by the under 12-minute media timeout, and Ndiaye made the backend of two free throws, giving the Peacocks their largest lead of the day at 55-36 (19 points), and giving the home team an opening half run of 25-6. Monmouth never got under 13 points for the rest of the game, cutting the Peacock lead to that 13-point mark six times, before Saint Peter's secured the, 77-64, MAAC home-opening win. Unlike the poor shooting in the first half, the second half witnessed the Peacocks shoot an impressive 51.9 percent from the field and a daggering 70 percent, from long range connecting on seven trifectas, while also making 85.7 percent of their shots from the charity stripe.
For the game, the Peacocks forced Monmouth into 18 turnovers that resulted in 21 points. The top defensive team in the MAAC also held Monmouth to under 50 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.
The 4-0 start at the Yanitelli Center for Saint Peter's is the best home start in 21 years, with the program last beginning a season 4-0 in Jersey City during the 1996-97 campaign.
The Peacocks tip-off for the first time in the new year on the road at two-time defending MAAC champion, Iona College on Friday, January 5. The game will be the first MAAC wildcard broadcast of the 2017-18 season, airing live on ESPNU at 7pm.