With two massive wins now firmly in their back pockets, the Saint Louis University men's basketball sets its sights on St. Joseph's. The Hawks, picked as the preseason conference favorite, are 15-10 and 6-6 in A-10 play. Their struggles have been due partially to stars not playing well, but also because of injuries and players missing time with family issues.
The backcourt duo of Carl "Tay" Jones and Langston Galloway is one of the best scoring tandems in the league. In addition, SJU boasts an extremely athletic frontcourt in C.J. Aiken and Ronald Roberts.
SLU interim coach Jim Crews knows that the Billikens can't get complacent before Wednesday's contest.
"[They are] very bouncy, very long, very quick," he said. "Two starters from last year are coming off the bench. I don't know what their record is, I know they've lost some. [They were] the preseason first pick. Coach [Phil Martelli] does a great job."
Aiken and Roberts are of concern to Crews. Especially after he witnessed Roberts go six-for-nine from the field for 14 points in a SLU win at Hagan Arena last season.
"If you don't play good enough, [you'll lose]," he said. "They run extremely well and they space you out. Aiken can shoot outside. Anything near the rim, he's dunking. . .Roberts, he's all man. That guy, I like him. He kicked our butt last year."
Junior forward Cody Ellis will look to bounce back from a scoreless effort against Butler, and the opponent brings some fond memories for him. Ellis went six-for-nine from deep last year, scoring 20 points in lifting the Bills' to an important road win.
"They're an unbelievable team," Ellis said. "They're really athletic. They get out and run and they have some really good shooters. We just gotta to stick to our defensive gameplan. If we do that, our offense will come. We have to run them off the three and keep them off the glass."
It also wouldn't be a bad time for the Billikens to step up their three-point shooting. In four signature wins this season -- New Mexico, VCU, and Butler (twice) – the Bills have shot just 26.9 percent from beyond the arc.
"It is big," Ellis said about being able to hit the outside jumpers. "So Dwayne [Evans] and Cory [Remekun] can work the inside and spread the court. I think that's big for us, but it's not the be all and end all if we're not really shooting well from the perimeter. We have so many weapons, so we don't have to rely on that one thing."
In a season that has seen a bunch of ups and downs, albeit more of the former rather than the latter, there are two games that serve as constant motivation for SLU. Santa Clara and Rhode Island. If the Billikens aren't careful, a tough SJU squad could become the next.
Redshirt senior guard Kwamain Mitchell said that one off night, and the team knows what the result will be.
"We're the problem, we're the solution," he said. "That [URI] loss could be taken in a good way or a bad way. The good way is that we learn from that loss and we've moved on from that. The bad thing is that any day, we can be that team. That same team. I feel like we could be undefeated in this conference right now."
Wednesday night's game will be the next one in the line as the Billikens look for their tenth straight victory. Evans summed it up: "It's the biggest game of the year."