Gibson Jimerson scored 15 of his game-high 20 points from the free throw line, Sincere Parker tallied 19 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Saint Louis held off a late Illinois State surge to defeat the Redbirds 80-71 Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena.
The Billikens improved to 3-0, while the Redbirds fell to 1-1.
Jimerson established career highs for free throws made (nine) and attempted (10) in the first half alone and finished 15-of-17 from the stripe. He added five rebounds.
Parker did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 14 points in the opening 20 minutes. He set a career high for rebounds and was just one point shy of his career scoring best.
Terrence Hargrove Jr. added 12 points for SLU, including 5-of-6 free throws as the Bills shot 81 percent (30-of-37) from the line, outscoring Illinois State 30-14. Tim Dalger scored 11 points.
Saint Louis committed just 10 turnovers and earned a 26-6 edge in points off turnovers. The margin was even larger in fast-break points as the Bills ran out to a 30-3 advantage.
A 16-6 spurt gave the Billikens their largest cushion, 71-47, with 12:55 to play. Jimerson led the way with six points on a conventional three-point play and a trey, and Saint Louis seemed to have a firm grip on the contest.
But Dalger’s dunk that finished the run turned out to be SLU’s final field goal. Illinois State whittled the margin to five on two occasions, the second a 74-69 Saint Louis lead with 4:38 remaining.
Five free throws over the next 1:22 doubled the lead to 79-69, and the Billiken defense did the rest. Illinois State’s final points came on a bucket by Malachi Poindexter, who led ISU with 19, at the 3:04 mark.
Following an early 6-2 deficit, Saint Louis took the lead for good with a 7-2 run. However, Illinois State remained close and trailed just 28-26 with 5:58 remaining.
A 16-0 outburst gave the Billikens their largest first-half lead. Parker tallied seven points, including a 3-pointer that punctuated the run for a 44-26 SLU advantage, and Jimerson sank five free throws.
Illinois State outscored Saint Louis 8-2 to close the gap to 46-34 at halftime.
Up next for the Billikens is the Myrtle Beach Invitational Thursday-Sunday, Nov. 16-19. SLU opens the tournament vs. Wyoming Thursday at 1 p.m. Central.