St. Louis – Finals week is always a difficult time for basketball teams across the country, and for the Saint Louis University Billikens, that was no different.
The Billikens scored the first seven points of the game en route to a 66-52 victory over Wofford. However, there were a lot of ups-and-downs on the way there.
SLU, who is finishing its winter semester classes and exams this week, took advantage of a distinct height differential to pound the visiting Terriers on the glass 34-24.
A prolonged drought by the Bills' offense saw a 29-9 lead pared down to 35-27 at the halftime break.
In the second stanza, SLU couldn't seem to get in any kind of rhythm, and leading scorer Dwayne Evans was held to just four points on 0-for-3 shooting, breaking his streak of 28 straight games scoring in double figures.
The Billikens' lack of a truly reliable outside shooter is its biggest painpoint currently and would appear to be a fairly big concern going into conference play. Coming into the game, SLU was shooting just 30.5 percent from behind the arc. On this night, the story was the same. The defending A-10 regular season and conference tournament champions shot five-for-18 from distance.
"We have not shot the ball very well," head coach Jim Crews said. "For the most part, they're good shooters. They're hitting those shots in practice. I'm optimistic that we'll turn it around."
With their all-conference performer having one of his worst performances in a blue-and-white uniform, SLU got a strong showing from senior guard Jordair Jett. The stocky two-man scored 16 points to lead the Billikens. Senior big man Rob Loe contributed 14 points, most of those being right at the rim. Junior big man John Manning added nine points, doing most of his damage in the first half. He even knocked down a three-pointer, the first of his career.
"When we're not making threes we need to start punching it inside a little bit more and getting to the free throw line," Jett said. "I was just playing my game and playing within the offense. I was getting buckets and just running through the system."
Well-rested after a week off following a last-second victory on the road at Valparaiso last Saturday, the Bills took it to Wofford in the paint, connecting on 11 second-chance points.
With a sizable 20-point advantage, the Billikens went ice-cold from the floor and failed to extend their lead when given a number of opportunities.
"We let off the pedal a little bit," Loe said. "We let them back in it."
It has become somewhat of a recurring theme for the Billikens – get ahead by a substantial margin – and then allow the opponent back in the game.
Wofford got as close as five points on a two occasions but couldn't get defensive stops in order to inch closer.
"We got careless with the ball at some points," Crews said. "Every time we gambled with the ball they burned us. Our guys did a good job of sustaining and staying with things."
Sophomore guard Spencer Collins led the Terriers with 17 points.
NOTE: The Billikens shot 19-for-28 from the free throw line compared to just eight-for-10 for Wofford; SLU had 18 turnovers tonight.
NEXT: SLU hosts the Indiana State Sycamores on Wed., Dec. 18 at Chaifetz Arena.
SLU Beats Wofford 66-52
Billiken Report Top Stories
Liddell: 'I'm still at the top of their list'EJ Liddell talks about his relationship with the new Illinois staff and how the AAU circuit is going thus far.
Illini InquirerThursday at 3:30 PM
Five effects of JCL transferIllini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner breaks down the four biggest consequences of the Jalen Coleman-Lands' transfer
Illini InquirerThursday at 9:40 AM
Spring video: Isaiah StewartWe continue our spring video series with highlight of four-star 2019 big man Isaiah Stewart of Rochester, New York.
Piper: Five takeaways from EYBL AtlantaLead basketball reporter Derek Piper gives his five biggest takeaways from EYBL Atlanta.