PHILADELPHIA – Daryl Banks III scored the tying and go-ahead baskets that pushed 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s to the brink of the Final Four, the tiny Peacocks thriving off a home-court edge to beat third-seeded Purdue 67-64 on Friday night.
The Peacocks (22-11) became the first 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, adding the Boilermakers to their NCAA Tournament string of upsets, and will face either UCLA or North Carolina in the East Region final on Sunday.
Saint Peter’s had the fans inside the packed Wells Fargo Center on its side from the opening tip and the arena erupted when Banks tied the game 57-all on a turnaround jumper. He hit a driving layup with 2:17 left that made it 59-57.
The Peacocks kept their composure — hey, they’re used to these wins by now after knocking off No. 2 seed Kentucky and Murray State — and held off a Purdue team that gamely tried to bully them inside.
“What they going to say now?” coach Shaheen Holloway said about his team’s doubters, a group whose numbers are dwindling.
Almost 30 years to the day that Duke’s Christian Laettner’s overtime buzzer-beater stunned Kentucky to win a regional final at the since-razed Spectrum, Purdue (29-8) and Saint Peter’s pulled off their own Philly classic.
Saint Peter’s fans made the 93-mile ride south to help pack the arena and give the Peacocks more of an edge than they usually have at their bandbox known as Run Baby Run Arena. Consider, just 434 fans were listed as the total attendance for Saint Peter’s home opener this season against LIU.
More fans than that turned out to give the team a Sweet 16 sendoff from campus this week.
Even more basketball fans — yes, even those whose brackets the Peacocks help bust — were suddenly rooting for the tiny commuter college in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.
Purdue’s Jaden Iven buried an NBA-distance 3 with 8 seconds left that pulled Purdue within 65-64 and momentarily shushed the crowd.
No worries. Doug Edert, whose wispy mustache and goofy persona earned him a fast-food chicken endorsement deal, sank two free throws to seal the win.
The Peacocks hopped the press table and saluted fans in the first few rows. They mobbed each other and hugged and starting waving down fans and friends before they gathered at the basket to celebrate – one more time – the biggest win in program history.
Banks led the Peacocks with 14 points, Clarence Rupert scored 11 and Edert had 10. Trevion Williams had 16 points and eight rebounds for Purdue.