St. Peter’s Knocks Out Murray State After Intense Matchup


photo courtesy of AP Images

Saint Peter’s KC Ndefo (11) goes up for a dunk against Murray State’s KJ Williams (0) during a game in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Tyler Chrenka, Editor-in-Chief

Upsetting yet another well-ranked Kentucky team in the second round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the No. 15 seed St. Peter’s Peacocks have proven they are stronger than not only their mascot but also their highly-favored opponents. 

Two days after ousting the No. 2 seed Kentucky, they returned to the court to face the No.7 seed Murray State Racers, winning 70-60 and becoming the third No. 15 seed team to ever make it to the Sweet Sixteen. 

“I’m just proud these guys are getting a chance to play on a different type of stage,” St. Peter’s Coach Shaheen Holloway said. “These guys have worked so hard for this moment.”

The matchup started slow with both teams failing to score any points in the first two minutes, but things began to pick up after St. Peter’s junior KC Ndeffo broke this stalemate with an impressive layup. 

For the next 10 minutes, the two teams shuffled between a tie and a 2-point St. Peter’s lead. The Peacocks drew five fouls to give Murray State the bonus, and shortly after Murray State did the same. 

With seven minutes left in the first half, junior Matthew Lee helped the Peacocks rise to a 4-point lead of 17-13 for the first time of the game, but Murray State’s Justice Hill responded with a 3-pointer from at least three feet behind the arc. 

The two shuffled back and forth once again until Jaylen Murray of St. Peter’s brought the score to another 4-point Peacock lead after confidently driving to the basket, but Hill responded yet again with a 3-pointer, bringing the score to 29-27.

The first half ended with the Peacocks ahead 32-27, and Murray State headed to the locker room looking daunted by St. Peter’s offense, which scored most by going around the defense in the middle and finishing layups from the side. 

Once the second half began, it didn’t take long for St. Peter’s to pull away. Following an impressive turn shot from Ndefo inside the paint, an offensive error on Murray State resulted in a 3-pointer from Lee that brought the score to 37-27. 

Murray State responded with another unsuccessful attack, which the Peacocks capitalized on, bringing them to a 13-point lead and forcing Murray State to use their first timeout of the game. 

Coming out of the timeout, the Peacocks suffered a nearly three-minute scoring drought, allowing Murray State to crawl back to 42-36, but more unsuccessful offense from the Racers hindered this late-game recovery. 

St. Peter’s continued to capitalize off of Murray State’s weaker offense with two 2-pointers from outside the paint. The fake 3-point shot before stepping inside the arc and finishing fooled the Murray State defense twice in a row. 

But this did not beat them down. 

With the score 50-41 with just over nine minutes left, Murray State made two 3-pointers back to back with no successful response from the Peacocks. This brought the score to 50-47, putting the Racers back into the game for the first time in the second half. 

The next five minutes followed with a third scoring shuffle that almost put Murray State ahead, but St. Peter’s was able to keep the lead. With 3 minutes remaining, Peacock junior Doug Edert finished a 3-pointer, giving St. Peter’s a more comfortable buffer of 5 points. 

Murray State failed to retaliate, which resulted in another basket from Edert that made the score 64-57. 

The Racers were able to make it a 4-point game with just a minute left, but they could not close the gap any further. 

St. Peter’s won 70-60 and will face the No. 3 seed Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen in Philadelphia. 

Though Purdue is favored, Ndeffo seems relaxed and confident, having already proven twice that the odds don’t matter. 

“It’s just basketball,” Ndeffo said. “I don’t think you should go into any game intimidated by anybody…we just need to focus on beating Purdue.”