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Saint Peter's (5-25) vs. Marist (13-17)

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Friday, March 2, 7:30 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: MassMutual Center (7,552) -- Springfield, Massachusetts. Television: None. Home Record: Saint Peter's 3-10, Marist 10-4. Away Record: Saint Peter's 2-13, Marist 2-12. Neutral Record: Saint Peter's 0-2, Marist 1-1. Conference Record: Saint Peter's 4-14, Marist 7-11. Series Record: Saint Peter's leads, 20-18.

GAME NOTES: The defending champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament find themselves in the first round of the 31st annual event, as the Saint Peter's Peacocks match up against the Marist Red Foxes at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts tonight.

Saint Peter's, which defeated Iona in last year's title tilt for its third MAAC Tournament crown, has taken several steps backwards in 2011-12 with a mere five wins to show for its efforts. Since early December, the ninth-seeded Peacocks have won a total of just three games, and two of those came against Canisius which was the worst team in the league this year. SPC closed out the regular season on a seven-game slide.

As for the Red Foxes, the eighth seed in this event, they are one of two teams in the MAAC that has never won this tournament. However, Marist did close the regular season rather strong with back-to-back victories and four in the last five outings overall, so perhaps the squad has enough momentum to move forward.

Marist won both meetings against the Peacocks this season, snapping what had been a five-game win streak for Saint Peter's. Despite the setbacks, the Peacocks still own a 20-18 edge in the all-time series.

The winner of tonight's battle will be right back in action tomorrow in order to face top-seeded Iona in the quarterfinals.

In terms of offense this season, the Peacocks were by far the weakest team in the MAAC with an average of 58.1 ppg. No other team in the conference scored less than 63 ppg and that's why Saint Peter's also carried the largest negative scoring margin with a minus 11.1 ppg. The squad was second-to-last in the league in field goal shooting (.404) and accuracy behind the three-point line (.318). Darius Conley, who gained recognition as an all-conference performer this year, averaged 11.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg to pace the program in both departments. Chris Prescott (10.4 ppg) and Lamin Fulton (8.8 ppg) both shot below 36.5 percent from the floor, but the pair did combine to make a total of 119 three-pointers to give the Peacocks some perimeter success.

The biggest knock on the Red Foxes was their defense this season, placing last in the league as they allowed the competition to shoot 45.8 percent from the field and 37.5 percent behind the three-point line, both stats leaving Marist last in the league. The squad was also second-to-last in terms of steals made, averaging just 5.8 per contest. Even though he started just nine of the 30 games for Marist, Chavaughn Lewis still led the team in scoring overall with 13.9 ppg, posting a single point more than Devin Price who is also listed at 13.9 ppg. Lewis also accounted for 4.5 rpg and led the squad with 49 steals, but the fact that he had almost twice as many turnovers (92) as he did assists (57) was certainly disappointing.

Without much scoring punch, the Peacocks will be at the mercy of Marist in this meeting. The Red Foxes might not be built to go deep in the tournament, but they should at least get to play on Saturday.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marist 66, Saint Peter's 59

03/02 10:44:51 ET