"We didn't win that battle, but we won the war," SLU coach Rick Majerus said. "So that was good."
With its five win in six games, Saint Louis improved to 16-10 overall and 7-5 in conference play. The 16 wins equals the mark from a year ago, in Majerus' first season at SLU. The Billikens are now 13-2 in their debut season at Chaifetz Arena.
"They are a real good team," SLU senior guard Kevin Lisch said. "It's good to get a win. We knocked down some free throws at the end."
The Billikens had four players score in double figures and had several players step up.
Freshman guard Kwamain Mitchell, who was named the A-10's rookie of the week last week, led the way with 17 points, including a career-high five 3-pointers.
The Wisconsin native hit a big 3-pointer with 6:24 left to put SLU up 60-55 and then knocked down a fadeaway 3-pointer from the right wing before the shot clock expired to put his team ahead 68-64 with 1:11 left.
"The best part about him is his attitude," Majerus said. "… He's extremely coachable and mature."
Lisch struggled from the field, making just two of eight shot attempts, but finished with 15 points, six assists and two steals. He converted 10 of 12 free throws, including three in the final 10.3 seconds.
Senior guard Tommie Liddell III scored just four points on two-of-six shooting, but had a game-high seven rebounds and added four assists and a blocked shot.
"Barry did a lot of good things," Majerus said.
Majerus was pleased with the play of his freshmen.
In addition to Mitchell's 17 points and Reed's 11, the Billikens got six points from forward Brian Conklin, four off the bench from guard Kyle Cassity and two from center Brett Thompson. Reed, Thompson and Conklin all had turns trying to guard the 6-foot-9, 242-pound Nivins, along with Eberhardt.
Nivins, who entered the contest averaging 19.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, led Saint Joseph's (14-11, 7-4) with 22 points on eight-of-14 shooting and a game-high 11 rebounds. He did not score in the final 9:56.
Saint Louis led by as many as seven points in the first half before taking a 32-29 lead into halftime.
The Billikens started the second half slowly, which allowed the Hawks to tie the game and then take the lead briefly. St. Joe's led 46-44 with 12:28 remaining after two free throws from Nivins, but would never lead again.
That doesn't mean the Hawks didn't make things interesting down the stretch.
Saint Louis led by seven, 57-50, after two free throws from Eberhardt with 8:11 left, but Saint Joseph's hung around and stayed close.
St. Joe's twice cut the lead to two points in the final minute, only to watch Mitchell and Lisch knock down a pair of free throws to push it back to four.
After Williamson made a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2.3 seconds remaining — just his third 3-pointer of the season — to cut the deficit to 72-71, Lisch made one of two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to give Saint Louis a 73-71 advantage.
St. Joe's threw a long inbounds pass to Nivins, who missed a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
"That shot he threw up at the end, I was a little nervous," Lisch said.
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