The Saint Louis University Billikens gave a nearly sold out Chaifetz Arena crowd a game to remember when they defeated the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams with an 80-62 final score Friday night for their first win against the conference rival in the last 8 meetings, dating back to 2014. With a 14 point halftime lead and a margin as large as 21 points in the second half, SLU held on for an 18 point victory against a 1.5-point favorite VCU team thanks to spectacular defense, high-intensity offense, second-chance points, and as head coach Travis Ford said, a “rocking” home crowd and student section.
Great win for TEAM BLUE last night!! Proud of our 40 min. of toughness! Chaifetz Arena was rocking! Thank you to all our wonderful fans for coming out and being loud….and to all the @SLU_Official students,WOW, you were incredible! Thanks @SLUnaticsSTL for rallying the troops!
In my preview for last night’s game, which you can find here, I mentioned three key factors that I believed were a necessary focus in order for the Billikens to be victorious and they were as follows:
- Defensive Match-Ups between VCU’s starting PF Marcus Santos-Silva and SG De’Riante Jenkins who were guarded by SLU’s dynamic duo of PF Hasahn French and SG Jordan Goodwin. Santos-Silva was prevented from reaching either of his scoring or rebounding averages while Jenkins was unable to pick up the slack, barely exceeding any of his averages. Other star guard, senior Marcus Evans, was held to just 1/10th of his scoring average and due to foul trouble and a pre-existing knee injury played just over half of his average minutes per game.
- Rebounding. It was the biggest advantage the Billikens had entering the game, averaging 40 per game to VCU’s 34, and at the final buzzer last night the team totals were separated by a whopping 15 rebounds – 41 to 26. Many of those rebounds led to second-chance points, a metric in which the Billikens more than doubled the total of the Rams. Jordan Goodwin (11), Hasahn French (7), and Javonte Perkins (7) all tallied more rebounds than Santos-Silva who led VCU with 6.
- One player that has continued to stand-out in conference play for Saint Louis is Javonte Perkins. He has averaged 17.8 points per game since beginning A10 play and is on pace to beat the school conference-season scoring record of 17.3 PPG held by Tommie Liddell III from the 2006-07 season. Last night Perkins posted a stat line of 25 points (game high) and 7 rebounds while shooting 76% from the field, 75% from the perimeter, and 100% from the free throw line where he was 6-for-6. At one point he was 8-for-8 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. He has now averaged 23 PPG, 67% from the field, and 88% from the FT line in the past three games. For some players this might have been a career game but it appears that we can expect even more from Perkins as he is continuously improving, making a name for himself as one of the most valuable players in the entire conference and further developing his already convincing argument for Sixth Man of the Year.
With all of the impressive individual performances last night came a number of significant achievements and milestones, notably:
- Jordan Goodwin recorded his 13th double-double of the season with 10 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block. He is currently tied for 14th in the nation in rebounds per game with 10.5, only .4 per game away from the top ten, and is 4 inches shorter than any other player in the top 50. Jordan Goodwin also reached third all-time in career steals at Saint Louis University where he is tied with Jordair Jett. With one more steal he will be behind only Josh Fisher (2nd) and Anthony Bonner (1st).
- Yuri Collins had a game, season, and career-high 12 assists, which was double the amount of the game’s second highest total by Jordan Goodwin and six times that of the highest total by a VCU player. Those 12 assists tie the season record for assists by a freshman and contributed to the most assists the Billikens have had in a game since the 23 against Eastern Washington on November 13th. Yuri currently sits at 8th on the list of all-time single-season assists by a SLU player with 144, is in the top 40 in the country in assists per game, and is tied for first among all freshman on that list (5.3, Nico Mannion @ Arizona).
- Hasahn French recorded his first double-digit scoring game since February 8th at Dayton and was the second highest scorer on the night with 18 points on 69% shooting from the floor. Paired with 7 rebounds, French is still averaging a 12.2 ppg / 10.3 rpg double-double on 50.9% shooting.
- Terrence Hargrove scored 11 points on 62% shooting and grabbed 4 rebounds in 25 minutes last night, a minutes per game total that is 10 minutes greater than his last four games combined due to a minor ankle injury. The most memorable of those 11 points and the front-runner for play of the game was this transition dunk at the end of a perfectly executed three-man-weave with Collins and French.
Last night was quite possibly the best game I have seen the Billikens play in the past six years. A long list of highlight plays, outstanding individual performances from a variety of players, good team basketball, and a rarely seen fast-paced offense were among reasons why this game stood out so much for me, but above all other reasons why last night’s game was so spectacular were three things in particular. At halftime the university honored decades of basketball alumni and among the more than twenty to thirty alumni in attendance was Mr. Jack Genetti. Genetti played from 1941-1947, but left SLU from 1943-45 to serve the United States in World War Two. Arguably paling in comparison to Mr. Genetti is word that athletic director Chris May “all but confirmed” the contract extension of head coach Travis Ford, according to Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Last but not least is the news that Fred Thatch Jr. has applied for a medical redshirt for the 2019-2020 season and will not be returning to action until next year. If he is granted the redshirt he will regain one year of eligibility, meaning his final year as a Billiken would come during the senior year seasons of Yuri Collins, Gibson Jimerson, Terrence Hargrove Jr., and Jimmy Bell Jr., and that is certainly something to look forward to assuming that Thatch can make a full recovery from his mysterious illness and play at the level his previous performance has indicated that he is capable of.
The Billikens return to action at Chaifetz Arena against the Saint Joseph Hawks on Wednesday, February 26th at 8pm. Tickets are still available for as low as $10 and can be purchased here, but if last night’s performance did not convince you to be there in attendance then you can watch the game from home on CBS Sports Network. Thank you for reading and #RollBillsRoll!