At last, the monkey is off the back of the Saint Louis University men's basketball team.
A near-perfect first half propelled the Billikens to a 67-57 win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday.
Up 38-23 at the break, aided by balanced scoring and lockdown defense, the Bills gave themselves a large enough cushion to overcome a strong effort from the Bonnies in the second half.
Juniors Dwayne Evans and Grandy Glaze provided sparks throughout the game for SLU.
Despite an off-day from star point guard Kwamain Mitchell, who scored just 3 points and made only one field goal, SLU's grind-it-out defensive mentality came through when it counted.
The first 20 minutes saw just seven field goals from the home outfit against nine turnovers, and the Billikens took advantage shooting 46.7 percent from the field.
In the second frame, the Bonnies came out firing and immediately cut the Bills' lead to single-digits and eventually as low as six points, but some big buckets from Evans helped stem the tide and gave SLU the breathing room it needed. It wasn't the vintage performance that we saw in the first half, but it was enough for a much-needed road victory.
Jake Barnett and John Manning also saw quality minutes for the Billikens, and were productive in their time. With Rob Loe in foul trouble and Cory Remekun not playing many minutes, Barnett corralled five rebounds.
The backcourt trio of Mitchell, Mike McCall Jr., and Jordair Jett couldn't seem to find any rhythm, but Evans, Glaze, and timely shooting from Cody Ellis were there in the nick of time.
Not assisting in the win was the Billikens' performance from the free-throw line. They were just 17-for-25 from the charity stripe, including Ellis, a 90 percent shooter, missing multiple attempts.
The final swing in the game was two turnovers for easy layins off consecutive steals by Cody Ellis with under three minutes remaining that restored a double-digit lead for SLU as the Bonnies threatened.
The Billikens now are 14-5 on the season and 3-2 in Atlantic 10 play. They return home to face Butler on Thursday, Jan. 31.