SLU Defeats Detroit In Home Opener

ST. LOUIS — The Saint Louis University basketball team played its first home game in the Rick Majerus era against Detroit on Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center.

But the Billikens' 66-58 victory over the visiting Titans was only part of a busy day for Majerus and Co. that demonstrates where this program is headed under the new head coach and how he plans to get it there.

"It was a nice win," Majerus said. "It is what it is. We try to make progress every day. We had a good shootaround today. I tried to limit it and I couldn't contain myself. We ended up going an hour and 40 minutes. I can't control myself. I want to advance them."

Earlier in the day, Majerus received letters-of-intent from five high school players — point guard Kwamain Mitchell, shooting guard Femi John, forward Brian Conklin, power forward Willie Reed and center Brett Thompson — who are expected to be the cornerstone of the Billikens program over the next several years.

"The five guys we signed today, the best thing about them is No. 1, their character," Majerus said. "The second-best thing about them is they come from winning programs. … You want to get guys from winning programs."

The current Saint Louis U. squad took another step in that direction on Wednesday night, winning for the third time in four games this season.

The Billikens got a team-high 13 points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists from 7-foot senior Bryce Husak off the bench in just 17 minutes of action. The seven rebounds were a career-high.

"It's been an adjustment," Husak said. "It's no secret I played behind Ian (Vouyoukas) for four years. It was tough for me, but I think that helped me a lot to be tougher and to be able to come out ready to go. This year is something I just kind of have to take and run with it. It's my last year. I don't want to look back with any regrets."

SLU wanted to feed Husak in the post and use his size advantage. Detroit's primary post players are 6-8 Justin Sample and 6-9, 190-pounder Chris Hayes. When the Titans doubled down on Husak, the SLU center found his teammates for open shots.

"He's trying harder," Majerus said of Husak. "He's making progress. … Today is one month we've been together. He played more in the last three games at Pittsburgh than he practiced in the last month. So he hasn't practiced. He desperately needs to practice. But he's trying harder and he's making an effort. He definitely helps us. I like the way he's progressing. He needs reps."

SLU junior guard Kevin Lisch added 12 points, including 10 free throws, and six assists. Senior forward Luke Meyer had 11 points. Senior guard Dwayne Polk and junior guard Tommie Liddell III each added nine. Freshman guard Paul Eckerle scored five points and had two assists against one turnover in 25 minutes.

SLU built a 14-6 lead in the first half as Detroit (1-1) failed to score for 7 minutes and 24 seconds. But the Titans battled back with three 3-pointers, including one from Josh Samarco (game-high 16 points off the bench), and trailed by just three points, 24-21, after Husak's putback at the buzzer.

The Billikens used a 10-0 run in the second half — including five points from Liddell and a three-point play by Husak — to take a 45-31 lead with 7:43 remaining. Detroit made a lot of tough, contested shots in the second half to trim that deficit and make it a ballgame, but SLU connected on 15 of 19 free throws in the final 4 minutes to seal the victory.

"I think that we played a hard-fought game," Liddell said. "Obviously we had some mistakes rebounding. We wanted to come out and play hard. It was our first home game. We just wanted to come out and play hard and get a win."

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