Gone are the days where teams with a dominant big man ruled the world. The short range jump shot, the jumper from anywhere between 12 and 15 feet, is a part of ancient history. Players now either want to attack the rim with thunderous slam dunks or hoist up shots from behind the 3-point arc.
That certainly seems to be the philosophy with the Peacocks of St. Peter’s University, as evidenced by their perimeter performance last Sunday at Yanitelli Center in a totally one-sided 84-58 win over Quinnipiac, a team that also didn’t mind having its fortunes lie with the prowess of hitting long-range bombs, unleashing 34 shots from way out.
The Peacocks did manage to make 12-of-21 from behind the arc Sunday, a crisp 57 percent. The Peacocks shot nearly 62 percent from the floor overall.
“We’re going to let it fly,” said St. Peter’s veteran head coach John Dunne. “We don’t settle for threes [3-point shots], but if they’re there and we’re open, we’re going to take them. We have good shooters who can make those shots.”
Dunne admitted that the game of basketball has so totally changed.
“It’s what the NBA is now,” Dunne said, mentioning the style of play utilized by most professional teams. “The days when you have two big men down low getting the play are gone. We’re comfortable shooting the ball and definitely feel good shooting the ball at home.”
The Peacocks have taken a total of 839 shots in their 15 games this season with 365 of those coming from behind the arc that is 19 feet, nine inches away from the rim. The Peacocks have made 127 from long distance of the 365 shots they’ve taken from behind the arc. Seven of the team’s regular players have taken more than 20 shots from 3-point land.
“We’re a drive-and-kick team,” said graduate student guard Nick Griffin, one of only two players returning from last year’s CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship team that tied the school record for wins in a season. “We’re comfortable when the game opens up like that.”
Griffin, the team’s leading scorer at 15 points per game, scored 22 in the big win at home Sunday, including connecting on 5-of-8 from long range.
“It’s always fun doing what you love to do,” Griffin said. “And we love to drive and kick.”
What Griffin is referring to is a style where the Peacocks make their way to the basket, then pass the ball back to a player who is standing from behind the arc.
Freshman point guard Elijah Gonzales was the catalyst of his team’s drive-and-kick mentality. Gonzales scored 15 points in just his third start of the season, adding nine assists and five rebounds. Gonzales made all six of his attempts from the floor, including two from long range.
“When people are hitting their shots, then it’s easy to be a floor general,” Gonzales said.
Graduate student and forward Nnamdi Enechionyia also scored 15 points, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc.
Enechionyia and Griffin are the two players who are back from the CIT champions of a year ago, the school’s first-ever tournament championship.
“I think a lot of what we do depends upon us,” Enechionyia said. “I think there’s been a big carryover.”
The Peacocks currently have an 8-7 overall record and a 2-2 mark inside the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Things would have been a little different had the Peacocks held on to their double-digit lead against Iona in New Rochelle, N.Y. last Friday night, but the Peacocks squandered a 10-point lead with five minutes left and dropped a heartbreaking 73-69 decision.
That’s what made Sunday afternoon’s game against a struggling Quinnipiac squad a must-win for the locals.
“We had to get over .500,” said Dunne, whose team has been battling to get its head above water since dropping three of their first four contests this season. “Another loss would have really hurt. I felt really good getting this win. I’m really proud of their performance. It’s a nice bounce-back after what happened Friday. We had good energy from the start.”
The win was also the Peacocks’ fifth straight at home without a loss this season. It’s the best start at home since the 1996-97 campaign, some 21 years ago.
It was also important considering the team will head to Buffalo this weekend to face Canisius and Niagara. Two straight losses this weekend and the Peacocks are back to square one.
But the Peacocks have an upcoming stretch in February where they play four straight games at home, facing Niagara, Canisius, Marist and Iona from Feb. 2 through Feb. 10. Those games should go a long way to determining the seeds for the MAAC Tournament come the first week of March in Albany.
Griffin knows how the Peacocks are going to contend for the remainder of the season.
“Defense is what we preach,” Griffin said. “We have to close out and get our hands in the faces of shooters. We’re still a defensive team.”
The Peacocks were fourth in the nation in scoring defense last season and currently rank at the top of the MAAC in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and 3-point field goal defense.
But the Peacocks are a shooting team right now and proved that Sunday.
“When the ball is going in, we’re a good team,” Dunne said. “We have to make shots. When we’ve made shots, we’ve won. But we have to figure out other ways to win. I think our league is open. We have to get the ones at home like this and find a way to steal a few on the road. But we have to win the home games.”
So far, so good, as long as the Peacocks are watching the ball trickle through the twine time and time again, especially from long range.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.