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In ‘the new St. Peter’s’ season opener, a promising frosh led the way

The St. Peter’s Peacocks defeated the NJIT Highlanders, 70-57, in freshman Briyanah Richardson’s electric debut.

Briyanah Richardson and St. Peter’s head coach Marc Mitchell
Ray Floriani

Jersey City, NJ — He is a bundle of energy. Pacing the sideline, literally working each possession. No need for a chair to sit on. St. Peter’s head coach Marc Mitchell is encouraging, directing, teaching, sometimes all at the same time. How can you not like this guy?

This is not Mitchell trying to breathe some life into a once-proud program fallen on recent hard times. For the new St. Peter’s University head coach, this is business as usual — his style.

Mitchell’s style is also winning. On this opening night at Yanitelli Center, his Peacocks defeated NJIT, 70-57. “We didn’t know what to expect from NJIT,” Mitchell said. “New coach, new system and new style of play. We just wanted to come out and play hard. We did.”

St. Peter’s led for most of the first half but could not attain that elusive separation from their opponent. Helping to keep the home five at bay was NJIT sophomore Ellyn Stoll.

St. Peter’s didn’t help themselves with turnovers, however, especially at a juncture when they threatened to open a double-digit lead.

How the Peacocks walked out proud

The first four minutes of the second half saw the Peacocks gain an 8-4 edge. That start helped propel them to a 12-point cushion midway through the third period. NJIT could not put together a final run, though, and one reason was a struggling offense committing 30 turnovers. The other reason? Defensive breakdowns.

NJIT could not contain freshman guard Briyanah Richardson, the game-high scorer with 25 points and a relentless penetration breaking down defenses to the tune of a layup or pass to an open teammate on the perimeter. “I was in my first college game,” Richardson admitted. “Once settled down and [I] had a few successful penetrations it all came together.”

After three periods, St. Peter’s led 51-40 and momentum was on their side. Besides Richardson, D’Aviyon Magazine was the only other Peacock in double figures, with 11 points. Out of the eleven players seeing action, 10 entered the scoring book. “That’s our style,” Mitchell said. “We will go with the hot hand, look for who has the mismatch, and if someone is open we will find them.”

Shining moments

On this feel-good evening of earning the opening win, there were a number of positives.

  • Forcing the Highlanders into 30 turnovers.
  • The defense of Cinnamon Dockery who held Tatianna Torres, NJIT’s top threat, to just five points.
  • A solid outing from another frosh, Wil’lisha Jackson.
  • Junior Zoe Pero coming off the bench “and giving us a lot of energy and hustle,” according to coach Mitchell.

Yes 1-0 feels good.

“We expect to win,” Mitchell said. “But, at the same time, we have work to do. Things to improve on.” Such as cutting down on fouls, as the Peacocks were whistled for 23 personals. “We are aggressive,” Mitchell said with a slight chuckle over that number. “But we have to keep that aggression and concentrate more on moving our feet to eliminate those fouls.”

NJIT was paced by Danielle Tunstall, a 24-point scorer who added a game-high 14 boards, for a double-double. The Highlanders were gradually worn down by St. Peter’s mode of attack on both ends of the floor.

A new era for St. Peter’s?

“It’s the new St. Peter’s,” Mitchell proclaimed. “We will pressure, we will run and attack on offense. We want to play up-tempo on both ends of the floor.”

On this night, it all worked out quite well for the Peacocks.