Billikens Win Season Opener

The Rick Majerus era of Saint Louis University basketball got off to a slow start in the first half of the Billikens game against North Carolina A&T on Friday night in the Hispanic College Fund Challenge at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh.

Saint Louis trailed by one point at halftime, but used a couple runs in the second half to pull away for a 54-43 victory. Junior guard Kevin Lisch led all scorers with 24 points, and junior guard Tommie Liddell III added 10.

"It was nice to get a game in and get a win, but the whole season is going to be a learning experience," Lisch told the Associated Press. "Every day I think we're feeling more comfortable. He is huge on defense, as people know from his days at Utah. That's one thing he emphasizes, defense — and getting your school work done."

The Billikens (1-0) will face Houston Baptist on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and then play No. 22 Pittsburgh on Sunday at 6 p.m.

"It's brutal, this tournament," Majerus told the AP. "But I knew it would be good to go on the road, it would be good mentally."

Majerus will learn a lot about his squad this weekend, before returning to St. Louis for Wednesday's home opener against Detroit.

On Friday night, SLU fans probably got a glimpse of the blueprint for how the Billikens are going to play — and win — games under the former Utah coach. Besides Lisch's 24 points, which came on seven-of-10 shooting and included eight free throws and two 3-pointers, the Billikens were balanced offensively and were stingy on the other end of the floor.

Junior forward Barry Eberhardt, who was the tallest player in SLU's starting lineup, had seven points and eight rebounds in his Billikens debut. Senior forward Luke Meyer had a game-high nine rebounds to go along with his seven points and seven assists. Senior guard Dwayne Polk added six points, two assists and two steals and did not turn the ball over. The Billikens did not get any points off the bench, but senior center Bryce Husak recorded a game-high four blocked shots in 15 minutes.

SLU made 43.5 percent of its shot attempts in the first half, including three 3-pointers, and then made 50 percent of its shot attempts in the second half, including three more 3-pointers.

The Billikens were able to establish a solid lead early in the second half when the offense started to click and SLU was able to take advantage of its opportunities at the free throw line (eight of 11 in the half).

Then the defense made sure the lead held up. North Carolina A&T (0-1) scored just 11 points in the final 14 minutes and made only 25 percent of its shot attempts (six of 24) in the second half.

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