Home CollegeSLU Billikens Thatch Scores Dramatic Bucket in Final Seconds, Billikens Outlast Iona 68-67

Thatch Scores Dramatic Bucket in Final Seconds, Billikens Outlast Iona 68-67

by Brian Kunderman

An offensive rebound and put-back by Fred Thatch Jr. gave Saint Louis the lead with 9.1 seconds left, and the Billikens stopped Iona on the ensuing possession to secure a hard-fought, 68-67 victory over the Gaels Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena.

The contest was a replacement game for SLU (10-4), whose Atlantic 10 Conference match-up at St. Bonaventure scheduled for Saturday was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Bonnies’ program.

Thatch’s offensive board – his fourth and the Billikens’ 21st of the game – came after Gibson Jimerson missed a potential game-winning shot. Thatch slipped behind the Iona defense, easily grabbed the rebound and laid the ball off the glass.

Saint Louis took a 66-64 lead on a Jordan Nesbitt bucket with 49 seconds left. Ryan Myers answered 16 seconds later with a 3-pointer to put Iona back on top.

The Billikens failed to score on a fast-break opportunity immediately following the Iona 3-pointer, but the Gaels missed two free throws, leading to Thatch’s heroics on SLU’s final possession.

A 16-4 run gave Iona (11-3) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference a 26-15 cushion with 5:18 left in the first half. It was the first of three 11-point advantages for the Gaels.

However, Saint Louis closed the half on an 11-1 spurt that featured five points from Yuri Collins and four points from Francis Okoro, and the Iona lead was narrowed to 31-30 at the break.

There were 11 ties and seven lead changes in the second half, and neither team led by more than four points. The Billikens turned a 60-56 deficit into a 64-60 lead at the 2:35 mark with an 8-0 run that included six consecutive free throws – part of SLU’s 25-of-26 performance at the stripe – and an Okoro offensive rebound and put-back.

Iona pulled even at 64 on a pair of free throws with 1:16 to play, setting up the dramatic final moments.

A balanced scoring attack was led by Nesbitt’s 15 points, including 11 in the second half. Jimerson and Okoro scored 13 points apiece, Collins had 11, Thatch tallied nine, and Terrence Hargrove Jr. chipped in seven.

Okoro collected a game- and season-high 14 rebounds (game-high five offensive) for his fourth career double-double and second as a Billiken. He also tied for game-high honors with a season-high four blocks.

The Bills’ 48-34 rebounding advantage also included eight from Collins and seven apiece from Thatch and Hargrove. Jimerson equaled his career high of three steals, while Thatch’s three steals tied his season best.

Saint Louis travels to Dayton to take on the Flyers Tuesday, Jan. 11. Tip time is 6 p.m. Central, and the game will be carried by CBS Sports Network.

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