RECAP: Saint Peter’s Keeps Pace Atop the MAAC Standings with 77-71 Win over Fairfield

Antwon Portley scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Saint Peter's Peacocks to a 77-71 win over the Fairfield Stags, pushing their conference record to 6-1 overall. (Source: Saint Peter's Athletics)
Antwon Portley scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Saint Peter’s Peacocks to a 77-71 win over the Fairfield Stags, pushing their conference record to 6-1 overall. (Source: Saint Peter’s Athletics)

The 2015-16 season has been a tale of two different seasons for the Saint Peter’s Peacocks. Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Fairfield Stags, the Peacocks were a half-game back of the conference lead in the MAAC, sitting at 5-1.

As for non-conference play, the Peacocks have been a completely different team. Saint Peter’s went 2-7 in non-conference action, a stretch that included a four-game losing streak following a season-opening win over the Brown Bears.

Against conference opponents, the Peacocks have put their early season struggles behind them, and entered Tuesday night having won two straight contests, and three of four overall. On their home court, the Stags were looking to put an end to the Peacocks’ run, and get back on track for the year themselves.

Fairifeld entered the night having alternated wins and losses over their past 7 games. They took down the Niagara Purple Eagles in their last time out, and were hoping to finally string together back-to-back wins for the first time since December 22nd-27th.

Unfortunately for the Stags, their inability to build off positive momentum would continue on Tuesday, and the Peacocks kept pace atop the MAAC standings, as Saint Peter’s came away with the 77-71 win over Fairfield.

Early on in the first half, it looked as though the Peacocks were going to cruise to an easy victory on the road. Quadir Welton connected on a jumper at the 9:59 mark of the half gave Saint Peter’s a 23-13 lead.

At the time, the Peacocks looked to be in full control, but the Stags kept fighting.

A quick 7-0 run by Fairfield before the under-8 media break, capped off by a layup from Jonathan Kasibabu, brought the Stags back to within 3, at 23-20.

Shortly thereafter, Fairfield would come all the way back, and start to build a lead of their own. Four straight points from Curtis Cobb, with the last two coming with under 3 to play in the half, gave Fairfield a 31-27 lead.

Antwon Portley would give the Peacocks a slim 33-32 lead, but strong free throw shooting in the last minute gave Fairfield a 36-33 lead before the half was out.

After Cobb opened the second half with a layup, Saint Peter’s went on a 9-0 run to give themselves a 42-38 lead, and the run was anchored by two layups from Trevis Wyche.

Fairfield would briefly take a 45-43 lead shortly thereafter on a jumper from Kevin Degnan, but Saint Peter’s would retake the lead and never look back for the rest of the game. Wyche hit a jumper, and Rodney Hawkins made a layup to put the Peacocks ahead 49-45, and Saint Peter’s would build on their lead over the course of the game.

The lead for Saint Peter’s would slowly grow as the half wore on, and they would get it to as many as 9 on a pair of occasions. Two free throws from Wyche gave them a 61-52 advantage with 5:01 left on the clock.

Fairfield would continue to fight down the stretch, but were unable to overtake the Peacocks for the lead. The Stags would get as close as 4 points, but their comeback efforts weren’t enough to lead them to the win.

When the dust settled, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks overcame the slim 3-point deficit at halftime to score the 77-71 win over the Fairfield Stags.

The guard duo of Antwon Portley and Trevis Wyche led the way on offense for the Peacocks, combining for 43 points in the win. Wyche scored a game-high 23 points, while Portley added 20 points of his own.

Forward Quadir Welton recorded a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds in the victory, As a team, the Peacocks shot an impressive 28-of-50 (56%) from the floor on the night.

As for the Fairfield Stags, four different players scored in double figures, but it wasn’t enough to lead them to the victory. Jonathan Kasibabu scored a team-high 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

Marcus Gilbert and Jerry Johnson, Jr. each scored 13 points, while Curtis Cobb added 11 points in the loss.

Looking Ahead

The win was the third-straight for the Saint Peter’s Peacocks (8-8, 6-1), and it pushed them into a tie for first-place in the MAAC standings with the Monmouth Hawks. After struggling in non-conference play, the Peacocks seem to have turned a new leaf and are soaring high against conference opponents. The road doesn’t get much easier, as they head on the road to take on the Iona Gaels on Friday night.

The trend continued for the Fairfield Stags (9-9, 3-5), as they have now alternated wins and losses over their last 8 games. Their inability to build off positive momentum has hurt them so far in conference play, and has put their backs against the wall. If they hope to have a shot at making a run back into contention this season, they will need to put up a good showing against the Marist Red Foxes on the road on Friday night.

– T.B.