Home Basketball Billikens Gain Ground in Conference Standings Before Rhode Island Sunday

Billikens Gain Ground in Conference Standings Before Rhode Island Sunday

by Austin Basler

After a victory over the Hawks this past Wednesday the Billikens hold a proud conference record of 9 and 6, which was then good for a three-way tie for 5th place with Duquesne and Davidson who both held the head-to-head tiebreakers over Saint Louis. The top four seeds in the Atlantic 10 receive first and second round byes in the conference tournament and currently in fourth place is the Bonnies of Saint Bonaventure. Wednesday night the Bonnies were 10 and 5, 1.5 games ahead of the three fifth place teams, but after being upset on the road at LaSalle they are only half a game ahead of Saint Louis and Duquesne and one game ahead of Davidson who lost to Dayton on Friday. Both the Billikens and the Dukes have a chance this weekend to break the tie and surpass the Bonnies for fourth place as Duquesne hosts George Mason Saturday evening and Saint Louis plays at Rhode Island Sunday afternoon.

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St. Bonaventure lost today at La Salle 73-65 to open the door for SLU and Duquesne in the battle for fourth in the A-10. The Bonnies are 10-6. SLU (9-6) is at Rhode Island on Sunday and Duquesne (9-6) plays at home today against George Mason.

George Mason visited Duquesne tonight where they were 8.5-point underdogs but fell just three points short of a victory after having multiple second half leads, eventually losing 81-78. Had George Mason won it would have given Saint Louis an opportunity to gain sole possession of 4th place with a win at Rhode Island tomorrow but because they did not the Billikens are left with two possible outcomes tomorrow: a win, which places them tied for fourth in record but losing the tiebreaker and by default placing 5th, or a loss which places them 6th overall a full game behind St. Bonaventure.

Tomorrow is the first and only meeting between Saint Louis and Rhode Island this season and though the Rams have the better overall record the Billikens are in better form as of late, winning three of their last four games compared to Rhode Island losing two of their last three. Rhode Island has a slight advantage in scoring (74.7 PPG – 71.8 PPG) but Saint Louis allows fewer points from their opponents (66.1 OPPG – 68.4 OPPG). The respective rebounding averages are separated by less than half a rebound per game, but SLU does a better job of sharing the ball (14.4 APG – 12.7 APG). The key to the game is winning defensively and with the Rams’ star forward Cyril Langevine returning after missing the last matchup at Fordham the Bilikens will be hard-pressed at every position but not mis-matched at any.

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In order to upset Rhode Island on their home court tomorrow these three things need to be highlighted in the game plan:

  • Rhode Island averages just under 9 steals per game and SLU averages slightly more turnovers per game. In Wednesday’s game against Saint Joseph’s the Billikens committed 7 first half turnovers and in turn allowed the Hawks to score three times as many second-chance points. Many of those turnovers were from forced passes that resulted in steals – Saint Joseph’s had twice as many steals as Saint Louis – and if that trend is repeated on Sunday it will spell certain death.
  • The Billikens have shot greater than 50% from the field in each of the last four games, and Javonte Perkins has shot 67% from the field and 83% from the free throw line over that same stretch while averaging 22 PPG. That level of efficiency on the offensive end of the floor is enough to give any team in the country a scare and if they can pair it with consistent defense, they are a force to be reckoned with.
  • Cyril Langevine, averaging a 10 point / 10 rebound double-double, missed last week’s contest at Fordham due to an upper body injury. He will be matching up with fellow double-double averaging forward Hasahn French and if one can outperform the other it will be a significant factor in the outcome of the game. Look for these two to fight for the spotlight on both ends of the court.

Tomorrow’s game has great implications for both teams involved as Saint Louis fights for the fourth seed and Rhode Island looks to maintain a slim advantage over Richmond, just half a game behind them in the standings. Mike Corey and Mark Plansky host the ESPNU broadcast at 1PM and St. Louis duo Bob Ramsey and Earl Austin Jr. will call the game on the radio on 101.1 ESPN. However you choose to follow the game, please do, as each remaining the game is of utmost importance and #TeamBlue greatly appreciates everyone’s support. As always, #RollBillsRoll and #BillsBy40.

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