Column: Defense Haunts Billikens

Following a 74-62 defeat at the hands of the Santa Clara Broncos, SLU is back to the drawing board to figure out its defense as the season continues on at the CBE Classic in Kansas City.

St. Louis, Mo. – Outworked. Outhustled. Outplayed. Those three words provide a summary of tonight's 74-62 home loss for the Saint Louis University Billikens against Santa Clara.

It was a display of sheer dominance by the visiting Broncos, led by a tremendous 30-point effort from star guard Kevin Foster. Right-handed, left-handed. Attacking the rim or shooting a deep three. There wasn't anyone in a white jersey deterring him from scoring at will.

Sure, the excuses are there. SLU is without its best player, a legendary coach, and backup big man. None of those would've mattered at Chaifetz Arena on this very night. The Billikens, as junior forward Dwayne Evans noted postgame, allowed their disappointing defensive effort to "seep into the offense".

For a team that prides itself on defensive intensity and points specifically to it as a catalyst for its offense, that was a glaring omission.

It's November 14. SLU has plenty of time left in the season to figure things out, but one can't wait a day longer to instill defensive pride. The Bills looked impressive in a 76-59 victory last Friday over a pesky USC-Upstate bunch, but still allowed over 50 percent from the field. Tonight, that number crept further north to 58 percent.

We've seen bad losses from this team before. Last year, the Bills were drubbed by Loyola Marymount after a 76 Classic title catapulted them into the Top 25. They bounced back with six straight wins, albeit against inferior competition. No such luck for the 2012-13 version of the Billikens, however, as they now head to Kansas City for the CBE Classic. An opening matchup against an mediocre Texas A&M looms before a potential tilt against Top 10 Kansas.

Evans and co-captain Cody Ellis were visibly distraught postgame. For obvious reasons, this team doesn't want to experience this feeling again. But now it's up to them to make the necessary changes.

This defense is a far cry from the one under Rick Majerus' watchful eye that was dreaded by opponents. While the blame certainly shouldn't fall squarely on interim head coach Jim Crews' shoulders, there will be much talk in Midtown about Majerus' absence.

The changes will ultimately come from the top, but the players need to be responsible for making the corrections on the court. If Evans and Ellis don't want to feel this pain again, significant work is to be done. It's a long season, but the Billikens would be wise to get things under control soon.

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