Billikens Earn First Conference Win

ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis picked up its first Atlantic 10 Conference victory of the year with a 69-64 victory over UMass Wednesday at Chaifetz Arena.

The Billikens improve to 10-6 overall (9-1 at Chaifetz Arena) and 1-1 in the A-10, picking up a win in a game that featured 17 lead changes.

UMass, which was coming off a victory over Dayton in its league opener, dips to 6-9 overall and 1-1 in the league.

The Bills were led in scoring by Kwamain Mitchell and Tommie Liddell III, who notched 14 points apiece. Kevin Lisch contributed 13 points, including several big free throws late in the game. Paul Eckerle was one point off his career high with 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.

The lead changed hands several times in the opening minutes of the game, with Eckerle keeping the Billikens close with two straight 3-point field goals. UMass was the first to stretch out to more than a two-point advantage when Chris Lowe scored seven straight points to put UMass up 15-10 with nine minutes remaining in the first half.

The Minutemen continued to connect and orchestrated a 12-4 run that forced a SLU timeout with six minutes left in the first frame. However, the Billikens put together nine unanswered points, a run sparked by a Lisch 3-pointer. Barry Eberhardt connected on a pair of buckets in the paint thanks to nice dishes from Lisch and Liddell, and Willie Reed capped the spurt on a tip-in to give the Bills a 23-22 lead with three minutes left in the first half.

After the teams traded buckets, UMass notched the final five points of the first half to take a 31-27 lead into the break. The Minutemen shot 54 percent in the first half to compared to a 33-percent clip from the field for Saint Louis. Lowe got the Minutemen on the board to start the second half, but the Billikens answered with eight straight points by Mitchell, including two 3-pointers. The Billikens took a brief 37-36 lead early in the second half, but UMass answered right back with a Luke Bonner lay-in to take a 38-37 lead at the first media timeout.

A Lowe runner gave the Minutemen a three-point lead with 14:39 left in the game, but Eckerle nailed a trey to even things up once again. Another Lowe bucket was answered by a Mitchell running lay-in, and Eckerle converted his fourth consecutive 3-pointer to give SLU a 45-42 advantage at the under-12 media timeout.

The Bills stretched their lead to six, but UMass would claw back and took a brief 57-56 lead with less than six minutes to go. SLU answered with a pair of 3-pointers by Lisch and Liddell to regain a 62-59 advantage with four minutes remaining in the contest.

A deep field goal by Liddell put SLU up 64-59, but Bonner answered with a 3-point bucket to slim the UMass deficit to 64-62 with less than one minute remaining in the game. On UMass' subsequent possession, Lowe missed a runner and Eberhardt collected the rebound. After a Lisch free throw put the Bills up 65-62, UMass' Lowe missed two attempts from the line with 20 seconds left in the contest.

Lisch would seal the 69-64 victory with four big free throws down the stretch. Overall, Lisch and Liddell combined for the final 13 points of the contest.

The Billikens shot a sizzling 58 percent in the second half and ended with a 44 percent mark for the game. The Minutemen, who were led by Lowe's game-high 21 points, shot 54 percent but were out-rebounded by SLU 33-24. Each team committed just seven turnovers.

Saint Louis returns to action Saturday, Jan. 17, when George Washington comes to town for the Hall of Fame game. Tip-off is slated 8 p.m., and the matchup can be viewed on CW-11 KPLR in St. Louis.

Box Score | Play-by-Play


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