Billikens Have New Look In 2010

In the middle of the season, the complexion of the Saint Louis basketball team has changed. With three of the team's guards injured and the arrival of forward Cody Ellis from Australia, the team now has more forwards than guards.

And that has led to coach Rick Majerus more often using three forwards and two guards rather than the three guards that has been a mainstay at undersized SLU over the years.

Majerus says it will be a game-by-game decision as to what the deployment will be, but the simple numbers -- the team has just four guards on the roster -- make it pretty much a requirement. On Wednesday against Fordham, SLU started three forwards (Willie Reed, Jon Smith and Ellis) for the first time this season, and that's likely to be continue.

Adding to the case for three forwards is that Ellis and Smith have become potent offensive forces for SLU. Ellis, a 6-8 forward who can hit 3's, has been one of the team's leading scorers in his four games, and Smith has been in double figures in three of SLU's last five games after seeing single-digit playing time in the first two months.

"Cody is something we never had, someone who can pick and pop," guard Kyle Cassity said. "We can throw some more stuff in, like a double-high (offense), and Jon's playing excellent. He's pulling boards, he's scoring, he's doing just about everything, he's defending."

It's also a big thing for SLU because its guards, other than Kwamain Mitchell, haven't been shooting very well. "Our issue is scoring," Majerus said, "not defending."

SAINT LOUIS 75, FORDHAM 48:

After back-to-back overtime games, SLU didn't take any chances with Atlantic 10 cellar-dweller Fordham, racing out to an 11-point lead and then cruising to an easy win. After the first four minutes of the game, Fordham never got closer than six points, and when it got that close SLU put the game away with a 30-7 run.

Ellis, in just his fourth game, had 14 points and nine rebounds for SLU (12-6, 3-1) and guard Kwamain Mitchell, who struggled from the field against Charlotte, had 13 points, five assists and no turnovers. Brian Conklin led SLU with 15 points, most of them coming long after the game had been decided.

NOTES, QUOTES

Saint Louis held Charlotte without a three-point field goal in seven attempts on Jan. 17 but lost to the 49ers 63-61 in overtime. Charlotte had made at least one three in 630 consecutive games, dating to 1989.

Saint Louis had a four-game overtime winning streak snapped with the loss at Charlotte.

ON THE SPOT: It wasn't a factor against Fordham because the game was one-sided, but SLU continues to be very ugly at the free throw line. After making 12 of 20 against Charlotte, SLU made just 5 of 9 against Fordham. Jon Smith, who missed a free throw in the closing seconds against Charlotte that would have put SLU ahead, missed his two tries. In conference play, SLU is shooting 58.5 percent from the line.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"The guys played with a lot of heart. They didn't always play well or smart, but they won a tough game against a tough team on the road." -- Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus on the victory at Duquesne.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: Saint Louis won its first four games, lost its next three, then won its next three. Since that 7-3 start, the Billikens are 5-3. G Kwamain Mitchell came into the week leading Saint Louis with a 15.9 scoring average, and F Willie Reed was averaging 12.6 points and 8.6 rebounds a game.

PLAYER ROTATION:

Usual starters -- F Cory Remekun, F Brian Conklin, G Kyle Cassity, G Kwamain Mitchell, G Christian Salecich. Key subs -- F Cody Ellis, F Willie Reed, F Jon Smith, G Justin Jordan, G Femi John.

GAME REVIEW: Saint Louis 63, Richmond 58
Saint Louis 79, Duquesne 75
Charlotte 63, Saint Louis 61
Saint Louis 75, Fordham 48

GAME PREVIEW:

at George Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27
at Richmond, Saturday, Jan. 30
vs. St. Bonaventure, Wednesday, Feb. 6
at La Salle, Saturday, Feb. 6

IN FOCUS:

The Billikens get the weekend off before facing a GW team that played one of its worst games of the season Wednesday.

ROSTER REPORT:

Jon Smith had eight points and eight rebounds, his third straight game with eight rebounds. He's been especially strong on the offensive boards, where he's had 14 in the last three games.

Willie Reed returned to the starting lineup after a three-game absence and had 10 points and six rebounds against Fordham. SLU coach Rick Majerus had been dissatisfied with Reed's effort in recent games after he got off to a fast start to the season with five double-doubles in the first nine games.

Freshman Christian Salecich was out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, and his shooting struggles continue. Salecich made just one of four shots from the field, though he did make a nice alley-oop pass to Jon Smith for a dunk and had a career-high five rebounds.


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