Pittsburgh Hands Billikens First Loss

After opening the Rick Majerus era with victories over North Carolina A&T and Houston Baptist at the Hispanic College Fund Challenge on Friday and Saturday, the Saint Louis University basketball team had its first test on Sunday against No. 22 Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh proved to be too much for Saint Louis to handle, especially freshman DeJuan Blair, and pulled away in the second half for a 69-58 victory at the Peterson Events Center.

But you can certainly make a case that the Billikens passed their first test of the season by playing so well against a Top 25 team on the road in just their third game under a new coach. Pittsburgh (3-0) led by just three points with 14:13 remaining in the second half before pulling away with a 12-2 run. The Panthers sealed the win by knocking down eight of their final 10 free throws.

"You don't want to play experienced teams like this in November," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon told the Associated Press. "That's why nobody's doing it, but we did and it was a good experience. Saint Louis has four starters back from a 20-win season. They're an NCAA Tournament team."

Junior guard Kevin Lisch led the Billikens (2-1) with 13 points and added five rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes. Junior forward Barry Eberhardt had 12 points, and senior forward Luke Meyer added 10. Freshman guard Paul Eckerle came off the bench to score eight points, including two 3-pointers.

Saint Louis used nine players in the game, but freshman forward Marcus Relphorde only played six minutes and sophomore forward Adam Knollmeyer only played one. That left Lisch, junior guard Tommie Liddell III (seven points), Eberhardt and Meyer each playing more than 30 minutes.

The lack of depth would hurt the Billikens against the bigger and more physical Panthers, who were led by the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Blair's 16 points and eight rebounds.

"Pitt has unbelievable size and athleticism," Majerus told the AP. "They just kicked our butt. I think they're going to have an excellent year. Blair reminds me of a young [Karl] Malone. He has phenomenal hands. I love that kid. I'd like to be his agent. He could be special."

Pittsburgh out-rebounded SLU 33-24. The Billikens, who started 7-foot senior Bryce Husak at center for the first time in three games, were only able to grab four offensive rebounds on the night.

Guard Levance Fields added 16 points for Pittsburgh and forward Sam Young had 12 points and seven rebounds and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

The Panthers made 65.2 percent (15 of 23) of their shot attempts in the second half, and only outscored SLU 42-37 over the final 20 minutes. The Billikens made 55.6 percent (15 of 27) of their second-half shots and were able to stay close with six 3-pointers (two apiece from Lisch, Meyer and Eckerle).

Saint Louis returns home to face Detroit on Wednesday night in the team's home opener at Scottrade Center and will then host Furman on Saturday night.

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