Washington's 26 points help St. Peter's overtake Hampton

The SportsXchange

HAMPTON, Va. -- Hampton blew a 15-point first half lead, and Desi Washington had 26 points to lead St. Peter's to a 66-59 win Saturday in an ESPN BracketBusters game at the HU Convocation Center.

Washington led the comeback for the Peacocks (9-18) and sealed the game late at the free-throw line.

The Pirates (11-15) were led by Du'Vaughn Maxwell's 18 points and nine rebounds but succumbed to a zone defense that stifled their inside game after Emmanuel Okoroba got into foul trouble.

The Pirates were also done in by their own porous defense, which allowed 41 points and 52 percent shooting in the second half to a Peacocks team that came into the game averaging just 59.6 points per game. It was the second-highest second-half point total the Pirates had allowed this season.

"We didn't come to play in the second half," Pirates coach Ed Joyner Jr. said. "I mean, we played a perfect first half, almost, but then a bad second half. We didn't have any urgency, and that hadn't showed itself in a while. That's what I'm mad about. ... I felt like we played like we had won the ballgame already."

St. Peter's shot 42 percent (23 of 55) from the field, while Hampton made 40 percent (21 of 52).

Washington's long-range shooting kept the Peacocks close until two Markese Tucker layups and a free throw, plus a fast-break layup from Blaise Ffrench tied the game at 43-43 with 11:48 remaining.

That began a 10-0 run, with Washington scoring six of the 10 points to give the Peacocks their first lead of the game, one they would not relinquish.

During that time, the Pirates went six minutes without a basket and scored just two field goals in over 11 minutes until the game was out of reach in the final seconds.

Washington iced the game for the Peacocks at the free-throw line, making 9 of 10 down the stretch.

The Pirates once again made a concentrated effort to take the ball inside. Their first 16 points came from inside five feet, leading to another decent shooting effort to start the game; they made 45 percent of their first-half shots on the way to a 34-25 halftime lead.

The Peacocks, however, switched to a 2-3 zone after the first five minutes and forced the Pirates, with Okoroba in foul trouble, to try and beat them from the outside.

"They are a capable team from behind the arc, but our focus was really on hopefully keeping them out of the paint and not let their big guys get off inside," Peacocks coach John Dunne said, "because if they do that and they also hit some threes, they're probably going to beat you."

Even after turning the ball over four times in the first 3:30 after the Peacocks switched to a zone, the Pirates were able to stretch the first half lead to 15. Ramon Mercado loosened the zone with a pair of 3-pointers, one leading to a rare four-point play, and the Peacocks seemingly had control.

Washington, a redshirt sophomore guard, was the key for the Peacocks, as he didn't allow the Pirates to run away with the game. He made two 3-pointers late in the half, and a put-back buzzer-beater from Chris Burke cut the Pirates lead to nine at intermission.

"Once Desi Washington got us going, because he hit those two shots, we started playing with more confidence," Dunne said.

Okoroba, who sat for all but the first five minutes of the first half after being whistled for two quick fouls, picked up his third foul in the first 90 seconds of the second half and was back on the bench.

"Whenever we need a bucket, he's the person we've been able to go to get a bucket," Joyner said. "We didn't have that in there."

It left Maxwell as the Pirates' lone inside presence, and the Peacocks, who struggled from the field in the first half, shot 52 percent in the second half. The Pirates, however, came out flat and had as many turnovers (eight) in the second half as they did field goals.

The Pirates, who came into the game making just 25 percent of their 3-pointers and shooting just 39 percent overall, could not find a consistent answer to the Peacocks' zone. But it was the Pirates' defensive failings that upset Joyner more.

"One thing we've been able to count on this year is defending," Joyner said. "We didn't defend, so it put more pressure on our offense so that we had to try to score every time, and that's where not having (Okoroba) hurts."

NOTES: This was the first meeting between the two schools. ... St. Peter's senior forward Darius Conley, a native of Newport News, Va., returned to his home state to play for the first time since high school. He was an All-Peninsula District first-selection as a senior at Warwick High School.
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