‘The mentality is to win the game.’ Saint Peter’s players undaunted by Kentucky


Fans watch the Tennessee vs. Mississippi State game before the UK vs. Vanderbilt SEC Tournament quarterfinals mens basketball game on Friday, March 11, 2022, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. UK won 77-71. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

INDIANAPOLIS—Saint Peter’s players made one thing very clear ahead of Thursday’s Round of 64 clash against Kentucky—the Peacocks will have a chip on their shoulders inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse. 

Junior guard Doug Edert put it best: 

“The mentality is to win the game. Go out there and get the job done, that’s it.” 

It can be easy for a team like Saint Peter’s to get caught up in the moment of March Madness. All of the media, the facilities, the bright lights, it could be overwhelming for a group of players coming from a university that has under 2,500 students enrolled. 

The Peacocks aren’t letting anything distract them from the task at hand—defeating Kentucky. 

What a tall task it is. 

“We all got a chip on our shoulder,” Edert said. “We all have something to prove, both individually and as a team.” 

Players often dream of coming to play for and against schools like Kentucky. When the former doesn’t work out, the latter becomes so much more. 

UK head coach John Calipari and Big Blue Nation alike love to toss around the ‘Super Bowl’ term when it comes to taking on Kentucky. Opposing fans pack out venues, school’s retire jerseys and pass out shirts, the works. All because that blue and white school is in town. 

Saint Peter’s doesn’t see Thursday that way. 

“At the end of day, we have one mentality: Whoever we are playing, they put their shoes on, put on a jersey; we do same thing. We don’t see the name on the jersey. All we see is a player in front of us just like us,” junior forward Hassan Drame said. 

Matthew Lee, a starting guard for the Peacocks, echoed Drame’s sentiments: 

“Just trying to prove yourself right as much as you are trying to prove other people wrong is the mentality that we have.” 

The mentality that the Peacocks speak of is indicative of the entire team. Much like Calipari and Kentucky, Saint Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway has instilled the underdog mindset in his group.

Holloway, who is in his fourth year as head coach of the Peacocks, played four seasons at Seton Hall from 1996-2000, where he averaged 13.7 points and 5.9 assists per game.

Known for his grit as a player, he has passed down his hard-nosed tendencies to everyone in the Saint Peter’s locker room, specifically on defense. 

“We take a lot of pride on our defense,” Lee said. “We work on it a lot. If you saw our practices, we spend a lot of time on defense and we harp on it, we give it 100 percent, I feel like that’s our biggest attribute is playing to the whistle.”

After compiling a 14-11 record in the 2020-21 campaign, Saint Peter’s tacked on five more wins this season, headlined by Holloway and his players mustering enough effort to squeeze past Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels in the MAAC Championship, earning the auto-bid into the NCAA Tournament. 

As the Peacocks went on their journey to the MAAC title, the players learned to love Holloway”s toughness as a coach. 

“He gives 100 percent as a coach, and that makes you want to give 100 percent as a player,” Lee said. “He doesn’t let us slack. If we’re doing things the wrong way, he’s not going to let us get away with that. And that’s what I love about him. He’s not going to let us go in the wrong direction.” 

The right direction has taken Saint Peter’s to Indianapolis, where they will attempt to claim the school’s first ever win in the big dance. 

Daryl Banks III, Saint Peter’s leading scorer at 11 points per game, along with the rest of his teammates, are ready to face Kentucky.

Despite every metric in the book giving the edge to the Wildcats, the Peacocks won’t be treating Thursday any different. There’s a basketball game to be played, and they feel they have a chance to win it.

“It’s another game. We’re going to approach it the same way we approach every game,” Banks said. “We did our scout. We did everything. We’re going to try to go out there, execute our game plan and get the W.”