The Keydren Clark Show lacked its customary theater and excitement, but St. Peter's didn't need a gigantic effort from its high-scoring guard to beat struggling Canisius College.
Canisius fell to 0-5 on the season after losing, 69-64, to the Peacocks on Friday night in front of 904 in the Koessler Center. A preseason pick to finish in the top half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Golden Griffins are off to their worst start since 1987-88, when they opened the season 0-8.
And they'll probably pop the loudest corks come New Year's after losing their 13th consecutive game in the month of December.
"We're back on our heels a little bit, playing not to lose instead of playing to win, and it's disappointing," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald.
MacDonald said it's some of the little things preventing Canisius from breaking into the win column for the first time, but it's big things as well. Like how St. Peter's, which had been outrebounded by nearly five a game, beat the Griffs, 48-40, on the glass and inhaled 28 offensive rebounds. Like how the Griffs hit just 2 of 14 from three-point range while guards Kevin Downey, Chuck Harris and Jon Popofski combined for 7 of 26 from the field.
"It's pretty obvious we're struggling right now," said Downey, 3 of 10 from the field for 12 points. "Coach was saying we can shoot until our arms fall off, but I think it's more of a mental thing right now than how many drills we're doing. We have to get our swagger back and belief that we're a good team."
Canisius' shooting woes wasted the effort of junior forward Darnell Wilson, who scored a career-high 22 points and tied his career best in rebounds with 12.
"We have to play for each other," Wilson said. "We have to keep fighting and go in there knowing we're going to win and going in with the attitude that no matter what happens, we're going to stick together and keep fighting and keep playing."
Perhaps most disappointing was that the Griffs held Clark, the nation's leading scorer the past two seasons, to 13 points, seven under his average of 20.7 a game, and lost. The 5-foot-10 guard rarely got clean looks in shooting 4 of 15 from the floor and 1 of 8 from three-point range.
"Everybody in our league is going to key on Keydren Clark," said St. Peter's coach Bob Leckie. "They know St. Peter's goes as Keydren goes."
Todd Sowell scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed 12 boards. Raul Orta, who shares the backcourt with Clark, scored 17 points, while Kaimondre Owes added 15 points off the bench.
The Griffs never led in the second half but trimmed St. Peter's lead to two at 66-64 with 34 seconds left following a pair of free throws by Corey Herring. After Clark hit two free throws to make it 68-64, he picked off an errant pass by Harris and fed the ball to Kevin Spann, who was fouled and made a free throw to ice it with 12 seconds left.
Next up for Canisius on Sunday is an improved Siena team that won at Niagara University on Friday night. After that, it's a stretch of five of six games on the road, so the schedule it's getting any easier. Just tougher.
"Right now," said Wilson, "we don't seem to have it."