What should have been an easy win for Purdue on paper was everything but, falling to No. 15 St. Peter’s 67-64.
The Peacocks had the crowd on their side as this year’s favorite Cinderella team located 93 miles away from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
“I thought they were excellent today in their effort,” said head coach Matt Painter. “They beat us like they beat the other two teams. They had a strong will, grimy, tough, into you, and Shaheen Holloway has done an unbelievable job there at Saint Peter’s.”
“They’re a good team. Like they earned their way to the Elite 8. Cinderella or not, they earned it,” said senior Sasha Stefanovic. “15 seed, who cares. They’re good. They’re a good team. They can beat anybody.”
Friday night’s game was back-and-forth in the first half, but the Boilers unraveled late. Stefanovic scored 11 points going into the break, but could not sink a shot after the second. Trevion Williams led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds.
The big killer for Painter’s squad was turnovers, which has been an issue all season.
Tonight, the unlucky number was 15 – 15 turnovers against the 15-seed. Closes losses come down to turnovers, which Painter believes is partially due to playing away from the basics.
“We’ve proven if we don’t turn the ball over we can beat anybody in the country,” said Painter. “If we turn the ball over, we can get beat by anybody in the country.”
The loss is especially hard for the seniors – Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, and Eric Hunter Jr. – who were less than a second away from the Final Four.
The Peacocks make NCAA history as the first 15-seed to ever play in the Elite Eight, facing North Carolina on Sunday.