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Saint Peter’s is flying high.
The Peacocks entered the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament as the No. 15 seed and have made an improbable run to the Sweet 16. Saint Peter’s upset No. 2 Kentucky on Thursday, 85-79, and then defeated No. 7 Murray State in the second round, 70-60.
The Jersey City, New Jersey-based school has gotten students, alumni and the fan base excited for their next game against No. 3 Purdue on Friday night in Philadelphia.
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Randy Holmes, who starred on the Peacocks during their run to the 1995 NCAA Tournament, told Fox News Digital in a recent interview that this Saint Peter’s team has “galvanized” the community and it was mostly because of the sharp coaching from Shaheen Holloway.
“Coach Shaheen Holloway has these guys playing at a higher level. Under the circumstances, it’s amazing what he’s done and how his team bought in,” Holmes said. “As a result of that, he’s brought together the Saint Peter’s community. There’s people I haven’t spoke with, or text or communicated with in 15 years and all of sudden Saint Peter’s is winning now and it’s just reconnected us. It’s amazing what he’s done and what the team has done.”
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Holmes was in the ’94-95 team coached by Ted Fiore. That squad was also a No. 15 seed and lost to No. 2 UMass in the first round of the tournament. At that time, it was Saint Peter’s second appearance in the tournament. This season is the school’s fourth.
Keydren Clark echoed those sentiments in a separate interview with Fox News Digital. He said he received a lot of messages after the team’s upset win over Kentucky.
“Yes, I got a lot of Facebook messages, a lot of text messages from people, Instagram DMs. It’s been a lot of contact from people I haven’t talked to and people I have kept in touch with,” Clark said. “It’s amazing they remember me from playing there. I tell them thank you but at the end of the day it’s not about me. I’m along for the ride just like you guys are because I had my opportunity but it didn’t work out. But I’m living through them because it’s something I would have loved to do and they’re doing it. So, for me, it’s like thank you guys for thinking of me but it’s not even about me, it’s more so about them
Clark is the school’s all-time leader in points scored and one of the few Peacocks players who have gone on to play professional basketball after college. He played from 2002-2006 but never got a chance to play in the tournament.
He said he was pretty hyped to watch Saint Peter’s take down a giant like Kentucky.
“I’m super excited. When the game was going on against Kentucky, I’m watching it and watching it. It’s getting close, staying close, staying close and at halftime, it’s tied. I run downstairs to get my jersey and I put it on and I’m watching the whole second half standing in front of the TV with a basketball in my hand and my jersey on. Just so many emotions, goosebumps, everything going on,” he told Fox News Digital.
“I was just genuinely happy for the guys. When they were able to pull it off it was just like wow they really just did that. It was a release for me because I never got the opportunity. So for them to actually do it and go out there and slay the University of Kentucky it was like yeah, they did that.”
Holmes was hopeful about the team’s chances in the Sweet 16 against the Boilermakers. Saint Peter’s is the third No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16.
“The sky’s the limit for these guys. Who would’ve ever thought they would’ve beaten Kentucky? If you can beat Kentucky and teams like that … you have a shot,” Holmes told Fox News Digital.
“Right now, they’re playing with house money and everybody’s proud of them and they’re the Cinderella story. They’re making history. I’m very proud of the coaching staff, the young players and obviously the Saint Peter’s community and I think they have some more in the tank.”
Clark said it came down to execution.
“I like their chances because we’re very good defensively,” he said. “We don’t let the game get away from us. We control the game from the defensive end and on the offensive end we slow it down, make teams play at our pace. It allows us to create opportunities for ourselves. The team has done a great job of executing. Coach has great game plans and he’s demonstrated that versus Kentucky.
“Xs and Os were gonna be there, defensively we’re going to be there it just comes down to making shots,” Clark added. “I believe we have nothing to lose at this point. All the pressure is on the powerhouses to knock us off so as long as they go there and play free and compete, which I know we’ll do. I like our chances.”
Saint Peter’s has two seniors, six juniors, two sophomores and five freshman on the team. When asked whether he had any advice for the team, Holmes said to cherish the time they are spending in the tournament.
“I would just say cherish the moment, play in the moment, because nothing is promised. Just enjoy it. Take a lot of pictures because who knows when they’re going to get back to this level of play this far in the tournament. Just cherish every bit of it and have fun,” he said.
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The winner will move to the Elite Eight to play the winner of North Carolina and UCLA.