A comfortable 76 to 63 victory over the Saint Joseph’s Hawks Wednesday night advances the Billikens to 20 and 8 overall and 9 and 6 in Atlantic 10 conference play, remaining tied for 5th place with Duquesne and Davidson. The 13-point margin of victory is nearly three times that of the first meeting between these two teams in the beginning of February and aside from a home-court advantage, the biggest factor was the production – or lack thereof – from Hawks’ star point guard Ryan Daly. In the previous meeting with the Billikens Daly scored a career-high 35 points on over 50% shooting and on Wednesday he was held to less than half of that with just 16 points, also falling short of his season rebounding and shooting percentage averages. Despite a slow offensive start and as many first-half turnovers as Saint Joseph’s game total the Billikens never once trailed the Hawks and led for the final 38 minutes and 21 seconds of the contest.
As if barely escaping with a victory on the road on their home court less than four weeks ago was not reason enough, Coach Ford stressed the importance of appreciating the threat that Saint Joseph’s poses to any opponent despite their unintimidating record. Underestimating this game was a concern of the coaching staff and fans alike, myself included, as it is an issue we have seen many times before and with a double-bye in the conference tournament and a slim chance at the NCAA tournament both within reach, losing any game for the rest of the season is simply not an option for Saint Louis University. In the post-game press conference Coach Ford stated that he felt this was the most consistent he saw his team play all season, even despite the slow offensive start in the first half; He was pleased with the shots they were taking and the effort made on both ends of the court, and was never worried about not being able to score early in the first half.
The scoreboard was just one of many ways in which the Billikens outperformed their opponents, finishing ahead in rebounding (42 to 28), assists (19 to 8), blocks (6 to 2), and total field goal percentage (56.3% to 37.7%). Incredible efficiency in the second half after just a 6-point halftime lead was a source of comfort for the fans and after just 42% shooting in the first half, SLU scored 45 points in the second half on 75% shooting including 18 of Javonte Perkins’ 21 points.
An all-around great team performance speaks to the increasing chemistry of this young Billikens team and gives hope leading into post-season play starting March 11th. Wednesday’s nineteen assists ties the fourth highest team total this season and trails only VCU (February 21st) in all conference games, and six out of the eight players that received playing time contributed to that total. Yuri Collins’ game-high seven assists moves him to fifth place on the all-time leaderboard for assists in a single season at SLU and leaves him just 12 short of third place on that list. Over 92% of the team’s total points came from just four players with outstanding performances:
- Javonte Perkins -21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal
- French – 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and blocks, 1 assist
- Jordan Goodwin – 17 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists
- Goodwin’s double-double was the 14th of the season and is more than any other player in the Atlantic 10.
- Terrence Hargrove Jr. – 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist
From Valley basketball to @A10MBB for the second game of the night! @SaintLouisMBB plays host to @SJUHawks_MBB https://t.co/t1nxwurLPo
Three games remain on the Billikens’ regular season schedule and an opportunity to move up to fourth place in the A10, receiving a double bye in the conference tournament, is still available with St. Bonaventure just one game ahead with a 10-5 record. The Billikens have a two-game road trip before returning to Chaifetz Arena for one last game against the previously mentioned St. Bonaventure. Tune in to ESPNU on Sunday at 1pm to watch #TeamBlue face the 2nd place Rhode Island Rams.