The Billikens host Saint Joseph’s for the second of two meetings with the Hawks and the first of only two remaining home games this season. In their first meeting the Billikens needed double-digit scoring efforts from four separate players, including a career-high 33 points from Javonte Perkins, to combat the Hawks’ Ryan Daly’s 35-point game and career-high performance and escape with a 5-point victory. The 78-73 loss was the Hawk’s most narrow margin of defeat in any conference game this year other than their 1-point victory over Davidson on February 18th.
The Hawks are currently in last place of 14 teams in the Atlantic 10 conference with a record of 1 and 13 to contribute to their 5 and 21 overall record. The Billikens are in a three-way tie for 5th place with an 8 and 6 conference record and a 19 and 8 overall record; 5th place is currently shared with Duquesne and Davidson who both hold the head-to-head tie breakers against the Billikens, so it is essential that SLU breaks that tie prior to the end of the season if they wish to earn a higher seed in the conference tournament. Wednesday’s game against the Hawks is, on paper, an easy start towards that goal as the Hawks lack depth, offensive production and efficiency, and visit a Saint Louis team that is in entering this game with a lot of momentum after an 18-point win over a favored VCU team last Friday.
Saint Joseph’s has one player averaging double-digit points-per-game, Ryan Daly (20.4 PPG, 7.3
RPG, 4.3 APG, 42% FG), and the team makes on average just over one-third of all field goal attempts – which is not a recipe for success playing against the patented “Billiken Defense.” The Hawks average just 68 points per game while allowing their opponents 80 and that negative margin ranks the Hawks once again at last place in the Atlantic 10. If Coach Ford is able to reproduce the high-tempo offense that we saw against VCU and because the team will have a chip on their shoulder from the previous meeting with the Hawks we may witness a victory even greater than last week’s 18-point win over the Rams.
In my last preview for VCU I predicted three game-winning factors and I intend to do so with each preview for the rest of the season. Tomorrow night against Saint Joseph’s I believe these are the three biggest priorities for us to secure a victory: Guarding Ryan Daly, Offensive tempo, and staying out of foul trouble.
- Ryan Daly scored 15 points greater than his season average in the first game between these two teams and he did so while shooting 10% from the field and 15% from the perimeter above his respective season averages. That game was the single best game of Daly’s career, so for him to perform at that level tomorrow night is improbable at best, however it certainly cannot be allowed under any circumstances. Simply holding Daly to his season averages will be more than sufficient. Just like all of us fans, Travis Ford has surely not forgotten that performance and I’m most certain that he will make Daly a major point of focus in his game plan.
- Saturday night against VCU was the first time all season that we saw such a fast-paced and high-scoring offense from the Billikens. Players like Goodwin, Jacobs, Hargrove, French, and Perkins are all very capable of scoring in transition and playing at that tempo, and Yuri Collins’ ability to create opportunities for others and make highlight passes is a match made in heaven. The Hawks do not have the talent to guard these players for 40-minutes if we keep them running and this strategy would work well to exhaust star player Ryan Daly who is quite obviously not in shape to play that brand of basketball.
- Foul trouble is a recurring issue for the Billikens, and specifically with Hasahn French. French picked up his 4th foul with almost 9 minutes remaining in the second half and played a restricted number of minutes however still managed to score 12 points and grab 13 rebounds. If he is able to do that with a minutes restriction, then avoiding foul trouble should result in an even more productive night for the star forward. Saturday was French’s first double-digit scoring outing since February 8th and if he is able to play his full 32 minute average tomorrow night I believe that we will witness a 15 point double-double.
There are opportunities for multiple players to reach significant milestones in their careers Wednesday night, namely Jordan Goodwin and Yuri Collins. Goodwin is just one steal short of breaking the tie for third place on the university’s all-time steals list, and since he averages over two per game we have plenty reason to believe that he will reach that mark tomorrow. In addition to his position on the all-time leaderboard, Goodwin has four games remaining to beat his last year’s total of 66 steals and needs 69 total to reach a tie for third all-time – he is currently at 57. Yuri Collins is currently in 8th place on the single-season assists leaderboard with 144. That is just one assist short of 7th place, and if Yuri can continue with the 6 APG that he has averaged over the last three games then he will find himself in a three-way tie with H Waldman and Jeff Luechtefeld for 5th. Third all-time on that list is also very much within reach at 164, held by Jordair Jett from the 2013-14 season.
Because there is nothing better to do in all of the Greater St. Louis Area Wednesday night, follow this link here to purchase tickets to tomorrow night’s contest for as little as $10, or you can watch on CBS Sports Network as well as listen on 101.1 ESPN with Bob Ramsey and Earl Austin Jr. As always, follow @ChapleyMedia on Twitter for game day news and live updates throughout the game, every game. #BillsBy40