Sophomores Help Saint Louis Stop SEMO

ST. LOUIS — There are going to be some bumps along the way, no doubt, but the young Saint Louis University basketball team showed in its season opener on Saturday night that this talented group of Billikens is going to be fun to watch.

Sophomore forwards Willie Reed and Brian Conklin made the difference up front, combining for 30 points and 20 rebounds as Saint Louis defeated visiting Southeast Missouri State 59-41 at Chaifetz Arena in the season opener for both teams.

"It's just amazing how young this team is," SLU coach Rick Majerus said. "I've never been through something like this and neither have they. It's that the right way to go? I think so. We had a good signing day (Wednesday). I really like the guys we signed (Wednesday). I like all these guys. I think if we continue to improve we're going to be good. Is it going to happen this year? Probably not. But their effort can happen this year and we can improve our skills this year. You can't improve your age-level."

Reed, a 6-foot-9 forward, recorded the first double-double of his college career with 15 points and 12 rebounds and also added three blocked shots and two steals.

"We did everything today that we worked on in practice for the last couple of days," Reed said. "We tried to perfect the game plan and luckily it just worked out for us."

Conklin, who left the exhibition game against St. Ambrose with a sprained ankle, contributed 15 points and eight rebounds, including six on the offensive end. He knocked down five of seven free throw attempts on a night when the Billikens struggled from the charity stripe, making just 11 of 23.

"With so many new guys, we're just looking for an identity right now," Conklin said. "I feel like hustling and getting to the offensive glass and boxing out and just winning all the hustle categories, that can be an identity for us being so young and fearless."

Sophomore point guard Kwamain Mitchell added 13 points, on six-of-15 shooting, and had two assists, two rebounds and two steals. Sophomore guard Kyle Cassity, who was in the starting lineup with Conklin, Reed, Mitchell and freshman guard Christian Salecich, had five points and four assists. Freshman guard Justin Jordan came off the bench to provide six points, on two 3-pointers, three assists and three rebounds in 27 minutes.

"I thought Jordan played really well," Majerus said.

Saint Louis (1-0) got off to a strong start in the first half, as Conklin stepped up to score nine of the team's first 13 points. The Billikens led 15-6 midway through the first half and took a 30-20 advantage into halftime.

Southeast Missouri (0-1) made a push in the second half and trailed by just five points with 10 minutes remaining, but then the Redhawks went more than five minutes without scoring a point and the Billikens were able to pull away.

Saint Louis outscored the visitors 18-5 over the final 10 minutes of the game and the final score turned out to be the Billikens' largest lead of the game.

SLU shot 43.1 percent from the field (22 of 51) and out-rebounded the visitors 44-31 while Southeast Missouri shot just 27.5 percent (14 of 51). Anthony Allison and Derek Thompson led the Redhawks with 10 points apiece.

The Billikens return to action on Wednesday as they host Nebraska at Chaifetz Arena.

Press Release | Box Score

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