Billikens Improve To 4-0 With Win

ST. LOUIS — Not long after being hired as the basketball coach at Saint Louis University, Rick Majerus went out on the recruiting trail to try to add some 3-point shooters to the Billikens roster. It took some time, but it appears that the coach and his staff's hard work recruiting has paid off.

Saint Louis University had five players combine to knock down 12 3-pointers on Tuesday, including eight in the second half, to defeat visiting Mississippi Valley State 75-39 at Chaifetz Arena as part of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.

"The thing about our team is we have a lot of good players, a lot of good shooters, and that stretches the defense out and that's where we get penetration and then get some guys open," sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell said. "That is a big advantage of our team this year."

The Billikens improved to 4-0 on the season for the first time, which is the first time the team has started a season 4-0 since the 1997-98 campaign, during Larry Hughes' fantastic one-and-done freshman season.

In the first two seasons of the Majerus era at Saint Louis University, the Billikens weren't much of a threat from behind the 3-point arc. SLU averaged 5.8 3-pointers per game during his first season in 2007-08 and then 5.3 per contest a year ago.

After making 10 3-pointers against Kennesaw State on Sunday afternoon and then 12 against visiting Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night, the Billikens are now 8.3 3-pointers per game so far this season.

"We've got what we feel are pretty good 3-point shooters," Majerus said. "Shooting 33 (percent) from 3 is like shooting 50 (percent) from 2 with the aggregate amount of points you get. I think it's something we have to have until we develop our young players — well, they are all young — until we get something out of our freshmen in the post."

Sophomore Willie Reed scored a game-high 17 points on Tuesday, just one point off his career high. But after the 6-foot-9 forward's scoring efforts, the game belonged to the Billikens bombers on the perimeter.

Freshman guard Christian Salecich scored 14 points and made three 3-pointers. Freshman guard Justin Jordan came off the bench to score 12 points on four-of-seven shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Sophomore guard Kyle Cassity scored 10 points and made two 3's. Mitchell had nine points, including one 3-pointer, to go along with six assists and five steals. Redshirt freshman Femi John came off the bench to knock down two 3's.

Saint Louis jumped out to a quick 11-1 lead to open the game and led 31-24 at halftime after shooting 44.4 percent (12 of 27) from the field and 26.7 percent (four of 15) from behind the 3-point line.

But in the second half the Billikens really got going. SLU made 61.5 percent (16 of 26) of its shots from the field and 66.7 percent (eight of 12) from 3-point range over the final 20 minutes and outscored the visiting Delta Devils 35-5 during one stretch late in the second half.

"I think it was the defensive intensity that we brought to the second half," Reed said. "I think that if we can bring that intensity every day, then we can be a real good team. Every day we are going to get better and I just think that the freshmen, as they see the upperclassmen working hard on the court, they want to work hard too because we all want success."

Mississippi Valley State (1-4) made just six of 27 shot attempts (22.2 percent) in the second half, including just one of eight on 3-pointers (12.5 percent) and shot just 27.7 percent from the field (13 of 47) for the game.

The Billikens continue play in the Chicago Invitational Challenge this weekend at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. SLU will play Iowa State on Friday at 5 p.m. and then will face either Notre Dame or Northwestern on Saturday.

STATS AND STUFF: Walk-on freshman guard Darrin Young made his Saint Louis U. debut on Tuesday, playing three minutes in the second half. … The Billikens' five starters are all averaging 9.3 points per game or better. Mitchell leads the way with 12.3 points per game, followed by Reed (12), Salecich (11), Cassity (10.3) and Conklin (9.3). … Salecich and Jordan lead the team with nine 3-pointers apiece. Jordan is shooting 60 percent from behind the arc (nine of 15) while Salecich is shooting 39.1 percent (nine of 23). … After grabbing four rebounds on Tuesday, Reed is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game. He also leads the Billikens with 10 blocked shots. … Mitchell is tops on the team with 16 assists and has just five turnovers. He has taken just 11 shots in the last two games. "Our coach always tells us the best compliment in a game is the W column," Mitchell said. "I would love to score a lot of points, but I'm here to win. I'm trying to get into the NCAA tournament and take my team there. I don't care about points."

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