Redemption is a delicate dance. It can take years of a life to right a wrong, to show that wasn’t really who you are, or to find the piece of you that you left in the winters of your youth. In the life of an athlete redemption can come a quick as the next play or the next game. On a frozen Wednesday in St. Louis, Jordan Goodwin was staring redemption down. His costly foul, and two missed free throws at the end of Saturday’s loss to Davidson was the last thing that happened to J-Good in the throws of competition. The only thing on his mind for what one can only imagine was an excruciating three days.
When SLU was taking on the Spiders from Richmond, I didn’t care about team field goal percentage, turnover ratios, or rebounding margins. The only thing I wanted to see was what this kid was really made of. Would the nerves come back, would he wilt, or would he take this test of his metal and not blink or bat an eye.
Early on he looked, well, normal. He seemed almost unaffected outwardly. He was playing his ass off like usual, some nice interior passes, took his man coast to coast for a lay in. He looked exactly like himself.
The rest of the Billikens looked out matched. Especially by the Spiders’ center Grant Golden. He finished the half with 19 points on 7-11 shooting. It was the worst defensive half SLU has played all year, at the worst possible time. Off of back to back A-10 losses, they had to win this one. Had to.
They went to the locker room down 47-40, and Goodwin had 4 points, 1 board, and 2 dimes.
The last 20
J-Good was his normal intense never stopping self, but the real test came with 15 minutes left. He stepped to the line, the same line as Saturday’s disaster. Took a breath, his dribbles, and calmly dropped both throws. The building let out a collective sigh… only half the size of the one Travis Ford let out.
The Bills were forced into playing zone on D due to French and Foreman both having 3 personals and no relief behind them weighing over 180 pounds. They kept it close, and Goodwin kept on being Goodwin.
The game got bad, and it got worse. The 7-13 Spiders looked vastly superior to SLU. The lead ballooned to 11 faster than Grant took Richmond…Then it got interesting. The Bills put on the press and Richmond had struggle after struggle.
Javon Bess did everything in his ability to will St. Louis to victory. He poured in a career high 31 points, and after a late Hasahn French steal and a Fred Thatch layup SLU had taken that 11 point lead down to 1 with 18.7 seconds left.
Then bottom fell out after 3 straight borderline calls going the way of the Spiders, a couple missed threes and near heart attacks, and it was over. A third straight loss to fall to 5-3 in the A-10 and 14-7 overall. That’s the way conference play goes. One week you’re the king of the streets and the next you’re another nobody hanging way back in the middle.
Not to be lost in madness was the contribution of K.C. Hankton. It his longest look of the season he put up career highs in points with 11, rebounds with 6 and added 1 assist, 1 block, and 2 steals.
As for J-Good, he wasn’t as great as he can be, but he wasn’t bad by any means. That is somewhat of a testament to his resolve. He didn’t try to do too much and he didn’t overreact, he was just there. 9 points, 4 boards, 5 dimes, and 4 steals. Solid, but unremarkable.
Now what? Three out of four on the road is what. The way this team plays they could win all three, lose all three, go to overtime in all three. There is no predictive model for this squad, none.
As a group of young men you now get to see who you are. Will you respond and fight tooth and nail as you’ve done thus far, or will you fold like a French prize fighter?
As Coach Ford said to close his post game presser, “Now you get to see what you’re made of.”
Until Rhode Island… long live the rising blood pressure of conference basketball battles.