Any basketball player will confirm that the fun part of the game involves putting points on the board.
The other end? It's that dirty word.
That seven-letter word, d-e-f-e-n-s-e, falls more into the four-letter category for most players.
But, not at Saint Peter's, which rode defense to three straight men's MAAC tournament victories, the last two of the upset variety, to capture the event's championship and its automatic trip to the NCAA tournament.
The Peacocks head for the NCAA's after a 62-57 victory over Iona Monday night at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Ct.
The winners held the Gaels to 32.2 percent shooting from the floor. That followed holding both first-round opponent and semifinal-round foes Loyola and top-seeded Fairfield, respectively, to 33.3 percent shooting from the field.
"You talk to the high school coaches of my players and they'd tell you these guys are not defensive players," said fifth-year Saint Peter's coach John Dunne. "But, they bought in."
The buying produced the school's first conference tournament championship since 1995 and is the culmination, for now, of a program that built itself back after more than a few lean years.
The Peacocks won just five games in Dunne's first season and, then, six the following year when the current seniors were freshmen. It improved to 11 victories in the 2008-09 season and, then, to 16 last year. The current team is now 20-13, getting to 20 victories for the first time since the 1990=-91 team finished 21-6.
Coming into Monday's game as No. 101 on the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index, the Peacocks know they aren't likely to get a favorable seeding position in the national-championship tournament, or be anything but a huge underdog in in their opening-round contest.
"We believe we can win in the NCAA tournament," said senior forward Ryan Bacon. "We're the new Butler."
New Butler, or not, the Peacocks feel they deserve a new level of respect.
"No one respects us as a team or as a school," said Saint Peter's senior guard Wes Jenkins. "Now they've got to respect us. We beat both the No. 1 (Fairfield) and No. 2 (Iona) teams coming into the tournament. Now, we're No. 1."
It's because they're very nearly No. 1 in defense in the national statistics. Prior to Monday's games the Peacocks had limited opponents to just .376 shooting from the field, the second-best percentage of 340 Division I teams nationally.
"I didn't play much defense in high school," admitted senior guard Nick Leon (15 points, 3 assists in the championship game). "But we were willing to do that here. We've got the philosophy that offense wins games, but defense wins championships."
Iona came into Monday's game with more of an offensive reputation, but the Gaels struggled to produce points all nights against the stingy, aggressive Peacocks.
"We struggled offensively to make shots and they played good defense, so it was a little bit of both," said Iona coach Tim Cluess. "They're definitely a really good defensive team. We know we go as we shoot, and we didn't shoot well in this game."
Still, Iona rallied from a 13-point deficit with seven minutes left to get to get close down the stretch, but the winners made nine straight free throws in the final two minutes to secure the victory.
"This is so special ... it's awesome," said Peacocks' coach Dunne. "My first year here we won five games and, then, six the second year. We were getting beat up on a daily basis. There are times when you go through that when you question yourself.
"But these guys (the four seniors that joined Dunne at the post-game press conference) stayed by me and by the school, and we grew together.
They growth resulted in a defensive style of play not often seen in college basket and something else not often seen at Saint Peter's in recent years: a MAAC tournament championship and an upcoming trip to the NCAA tournament.
MEN'S ALL-STAR TEAM
Saint Peter's senior forward Jeron Belin, who had a team-high 17 points in Monday's championship game, was named the tournament MVP. Teammates Wes Jenkins, Nick Leon and Ryan Bacon were also tournament all-star selections, as were Iona's Mike Glover and Scott Machado.
WOMEN'S ALL-STAR TEAM
Erica Allenspach of Marist was named the Most Valuable Player of the women's event after averaging 23.7 points in three tournament games.
She was joined on the women's all-tournament team by teammate Elise Caron, Loyola's Miriam McKenzie and Katie Sheahin and Abby Wentworth of Manhattan.
Crowd counts for the tournament at the Arena at Harbor Yard barely reached half of what turned out for the event at Albany's Times Union Center in recent years.
Even "home team" Fairfield failed to bring out a sizeable fan turnout. The Stags' quarterfinla-round game Saturday drew 5,235 while their Sunday appearance in the semifinal round drew only 3,956.
That two-session total for Fairfield games of 9,191 was less than half of what one Siena session usually drew when the tournament was in Albany.
Over the tournament's five days here the total crowd count was 24,307. The last time it was in Bridgeport in 2007 23,561 fans turned out.
When the tournament was in Albany last year total attendance was 53,319.