Fresh off his first-team All-Conference and All-Academic accolades, junior forward Dwayne Evans showed exactly why he earned those distinctions.
The six-foot-six Naperville, Ill. native went 8-for-9 from the field and scored 25 points, as the top-seeded Saint Louis Billikens beat the Charlotte 49ers 72-55 on Friday at Barclays Center.
While a early three-point barrage propelled SLU into a lead that it never looked back from, Evans was the one constant during cold stretches for the Bills, as he used his physicality and strength to get position in the post for easy looks at the basket.
"He's a presence down low like we don't have from anyone else," senior forward Cody Ellis said. "He's big-time down low which draws a lot of attention."
Redshirt senior Kwamain Mitchell, who runs the offense for the Bills, also notices Evans' impact for the guards.
"I'm happy for him in that area," he said. "He worked all offseason on getting better in the post. He's another weapon. He's one of our best post players and most of our offense goes through him. I hope he has a big game for us tomorrow too."
"I mean, he scores almost every time I give him an open shot, and that's something that he wants," junior guard Mike McCall Jr. said. "Give him the ball, and it's going up."
The weapons that Mitchell referred to includes himself. After all, it takes good passers to get easy looks such as Evans got.
I thought we had some of the best passes in America out there," Evans said. "A lot of those passes I hardly saw coming from Jordair, Mike, even our bigs. That's something we stress in practice, and something we were able to do."
With Evans on the bench with two fouls in the first half, SLU struggled offensively to get in a flow. However, when he came back in the second half, the well-oiled machine kept on rolling.
As smooth and talented as he is, he makes the rest of the team that much better.
Interim head coach Jim Crews appreciated the effort that Evans gave, especially on the boards.
It looked like Dwayne got a lot of rebounds," he said. "I don't know if he got nine. He did a great job on boards."
Luckily for the Bills, despite his foul trouble, he managed to make the most of his time out there on the court.
Although the fouls were aplenty on Friday afternoon, not just on Evans, the first iteration of this game was a lot more choppy.
"They were just being real physical," Ellis said of the Feb. 16 matchup. "We actually got into it with them. That's not something we usually do."
Instead, the Billikens showed maturity. The focus was about getting a victory and working towards an Atlantic 10 Conference championship.
It wasn't all roses for SLU, however. Outside of Evans' outstanding performance, the rest of the Billikens shot just 24 percent from the field.
Senior Cody Ellis, who had hit on just five of his last 40 attempts coming into this afternoon's game dating back to Feb. 22 against Butler experienced difficulties once again. The Australian big man was just 2-10 from the floor against the 49ers, and the Bills could really use a boost from the A-10's Sixth Man of the Year to right the ship heading into the NCAA Tournament.
When the shots weren't falling, the defense rose to the occasion and contributed in a big way. The 49ers had 20 turnovers, which was their third highest total of the season.
In advance of the game, the Billikens knew they needed to guard the paint well, and they did just that. SLU allowed 24 points in the past, and were out rebounded by a very physical Charlotte team by just three.
I think the guys did a tremendous job," Crews said. "Basketball's not a game of perfect, and so you're going to make mistakes. When you make a mistake, or things aren't going your way, you just try to do the next right thing. That doesn't mean that things aren't going to go well, but if you keep doing the next right thing, eventually good things are going to happen."
The Billikens move into the semifinals, where they will face the winner of Butler-La Salle at 1:30 p.m. ET.
NOTES:Jordair Jett lowered his shoulder into Pierria Henry at the 3:48 mark, taken off the court by medical personnel. He was clenching his throat.