With youth comes inconsistency and Saint Louis has the youngest roster in the nation with four sophomores and seven freshmen. Thus, it stands to reason that the Billikens have been up and down this season while going 9-5 in non-conference play.
The inconsistency showed in the two games leading up to Saint Louis' Atlantic 10 opener on Jan. 9 against Richmond. The Billikens dominated Eastern Illinois 60-42 at home on Dec. 29 then lost on the road to Bowling Green 59-50 on Jan 2.
The loss at Bowling Green was particularly perplexing to Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus as his team was coming off of a stretch of six straight home games in which it went 5-1. Meanwhile, Bowling Green had played their previous five games on the road.
"You really saw our youth show in this game," said Majerus, whose team is 0-4 away from home this season. "I usually don't get into home-road situations, but with our youth, our players did not handle that. We've come out in other games with a greater energy and presence and snap. We didn't come out that way and they took advantage of that."
Saint Louis will have to learn to win on the road, though, or risk getting buried in the conference standings early. Following the opener against Richmond, the Billikens play consecutive road games at Duquesne on Jan. 13 and Charlotte on Jan. 17.
"I tell these freshmen to go out on the road and play like they're at home," sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell said. "It hypes me up to go in their gym and beat them."
--Saint Louis has gone 9-5 in non-conference play in each of Rick Majerus' three seasons as coach. The Billikens were 10-4 outside the Atlantic 10 in 2006-07, Brad Soderberg's last season as coach.
ON THE SPOT:
Opponents are playing a lot of zone against Saint Louis because G Kwamain Mitchell is the Billikens' only consistent outside scoring threat this season. G Christian Salecich and G Femi John could force teams to start playing more man-to-man if they would start hitting some spot-up jumpers.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Even the Wall Street Journal is now publishing odds, the venerable Wall Street Journal, and if you look in the Wall Street Journal every day, they'll publish odds on about four college and four pro games and some soccer games internationally, and guess what the line is always? It's the home team that's favored. That's universal across the board." -- Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus, whose team is 0-4 on the road this season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
G Kwamain Mitchell and F Willie Reed, both sophomores, have been the stars on a team that is off to a 9-5 start despite all 11 players on the roster being underclassmen. Mitchell is averaging 16.0 points and Reed has averages of 13.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. The Billikens have won five of their last seven going into Atlantic 10 play following a three-game losing streak.
Usual starters -- F Brian Conklin, F Willie Reed, G Kwamain Mitchell, G Christian Salecich, G Femi John.
Saint Louis 61, UMKC 54
Saint Louis 60, Eastern Illinois 42
Bowling Green 59, Saint Louis 50
vs. Richmond, Saturday, Jan. 9
at Duquesne, Wednesday, Jan. 13
at Charlotte, Sunday, Jan. 17
vs. Fordham, Wednesday, Jan. 20
Saint Louis split a pair of games with Richmond last season but has won three of the last four meetings with the Spiders. The Billikens lost 70-62 on the road then came back to post an 85-72 home victory. No players currently on the roster scored in double figures for Saint Louis in the loss while Richmond's Justin Harper, had 19 points and David Gonzalvez added 15. In the return meeting, Mitchell scored 23 points to key the Billikens' victory while Gonzalvez had 19 points for Richmond and Kevin Smith had 17.
--F Jon Smith easily had the best game of his freshman season as he scored a career-high 11 points in 26 minutes off the bench in a 59-50 loss at Bowling Green on Jan. 2. Playing two hours from his hometown of Grove City, Ohio, Smith made all five shots from the field and blocked four shots. Smith had scored a total of 13 points in his first 11 games.
--F Cody Ellis, a highly-touted freshman from Australia, will participate in his first practice on Jan. 4 after arriving in the United States on New Year's Eve. Ellis had to wait until the NCAA ruled him eligible, a decision that came just before Christmas. Ellis might be ready to provide a few minutes Jan. 9 when Saint Louis opens Atlantic 10 play against Richmond but it is hard to imagine him making a big impact this season after missing the first 14 games.
--G Kwamain Mitchell tied career highs with five three-point field goals and seven assists against Eastern Illinois as he finished with a team-high 19 points. That came after he scored a career-high 33 points in his previous game, a victory over UMKC on Dec. 22.