SLU Searching For Scoring Options

Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus has put a lot on the shoulders of Kwamain Mitchell. The point guard is one of the team's co-captains. He's the playmaker, one of the leading scorers and the top defender. But that may be too much.

After Mitchell's 4-for-15 shooting performance against George Washington on Wednesday, Majerus said the Billikens may have to look for someone to take some of the scoring burden off Mitchell, as he kept forcing shots throughout the game. SLU's past three losses -- at Bowling Green, at Charlotte and at George Washington -- all included poor shooting, and plenty of shots, by Mitchell. In the Charlotte game, he made two of 14 shots.

The big difficulty with that is SLU isn't loaded with many other scorers, especially at the guard position. Kyle Cassity seems to have settled in as someone who will score five to seven points a game. Christian Salecich, the guard from Australia, keeps getting open looks but can't put them in. The team's only other guard, Justin Jordan, likes to shoot but has become hesitant, which hasn't been uncommon with first-year players in Majerus' program as they struggle to learn the offense.

The only other consistent scorers on the team are forward Cody Ellis and center Willie Reed, and each has issues. Ellis is still learning the offense after his late arrival from Australia, and Reed, after a quick start, seems to be slower around the rim. The quickness of forward Jon Smith is promising, but like Reed, he doesn't have the body for physical play.

The biggest challenge might be that if Mitchell takes 10 fewer shots per game, who will take them when SLU faces Richmond for the second time this season on Saturday? Majerus has continually pleaded with Cassity to shoot more, and Cassity has shown a good touch at times. He also wants Ellis to shoot more, though Ellis already puts the ball up more than anyone on the team but Mitchell.

GEORGE WASHINGTON 67, SAINT LOUIS 62 (OT):

The Billikens led by 13 points with 9 1/2 minutes to play but made just three of 17 shots after that in regulation and went on to lose in overtime. Saint Louis (12-7, 3-2) has lost just two games in Atlantic 10 action, both in overtime on the road.

George Washington tied the game with 20.4 seconds left in regulation when Lasan Kromah scooped up an air-ball and laid it in. Mitchell missed a bad 3-point shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. There, George Washington converted three SLU turnovers into seven points, as the Billikens couldn't hang on to the ball when they needed to.

NOTES, QUOTES

- Majerus has long had the reputations of being one of the more outspoken coaches in the country, and he has stirred up controversy in his third season at Saint Louis by saying the Billikens would be better off leaving the Atlantic 10.

Saint Louis does seem an odd fit for the Atlantic 10, which has an odd name considering it has 14 schools. The Billikens are easily the western-most member and the only one outside the Eastern time zone.

"The A-10's a good league, but it's hard to people in this part of the country to understand the programs and traditions of some of the schools because they are so far away," Majerus said. "From a competition standpoint, it's great and we really fit in well. From a geographically standpoint, it makes no sense. The next-closest schools (Dayton and Xavier) are two states away. We have no natural rivals. Who in the Atlantic 10 looks at us as one of their big rivals?"

Saint Louis played in Conference USA but joined the exodus out of that league in 2005. The Billikens and Charlotte jumped to the Atlantic 10 after Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville and South Florida jumped to the Big East.

Majerus would prefer that Saint Louis petition the Missouri Valley Conference for membership. However, that is extremely unlikely as university president Rev. Lawrence Biondi orchestrated the move to the Atlantic 10.

- Saint Louis is 26-8 at home in conference games since joining the Atlantic 10 in 2005-06.

- Saint Louis has gone 30-4 when holding opponents under 60 points in Rick Majerus' three seasons as coach.

ON THE SPOT:

Saint Louis can't keep giving away points, especially on the road, if it expects to win. SLU made just five of 10 free-throw attempts against George Washington, including two of four in overtime. When SLU lost in overtime to Charlotte, it shot 12 of 20 from the line. The worst offenders are the forwards, none of whom is making even 60 percent of his foul shots, but even the best outside shooters are having trouble from the line. Willie Reed, whose game makes it likely for him to go to the line often and who puts in extra shooting work daily, is hitting just 53.2 percent of his foul shots this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"No one wants to go to Olean, N.Y. (home of St. Bonaventure) and Massachusetts and those places." -- Coach Rick Majerus, on why he feels Saint Louis should leave the Atlantic 10 and join the Missouri Valley Conference.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP:

Saint Louis won its first four, lost its next three, won its next three and has since gone 5-4. That makes the Billikens 12-7 overall and 3-2 in the Atlantic 10. G Kwamain Mitchell is leading the way with a 15.8 scoring average and F Willie Reed is averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

PLAYER ROTATION:

Usual Starters -- F Brian Conklin, F Cody Remekun, G Kyle Cassity, G Kwamain Mitchell, G Christian Salecich. Key Subs -- F Cody Ellis, F Jon Smith, F Willie Reed, G Justin Jordan.

GAME REVIEW:

Saint Louis 79, Duquesne 75 (2OT)
Charlotte 63, Saint Louis 61 (OT)
Saint Louis 75, Fordham 48
George Washington 67, Saint Louis 62 (OT)

GAME PREVIEW:

at Richmond, Saturday, Jan. 30
St. Bonaventure, Wednesday, Feb. 3
at La Salle, Saturday, Feb. 6
at St. Joseph's, Tuesday, Feb. 9

IN FOCUS:

F Willie Reed often finds himself in Rick Majerus' doghouse because the coach believes Reed has tremendous potential but doesn't always play hard. Reed returned to the starting lineup on Jan. 20 after being suspended for one game and coming off the bench in two others. If he returns to the form he showed earlier this season, Saint Louis would be a legitimate threat to finish in the upper half of the Atlantic 10 standings.

ROSTER REPORT:

- G Kyle Cassity played 42 minutes Wednesday, the third time in the past four games he's played at least 40 minutes. All three of those games went to overtime.

- F Cody Ellis missed much of the practices leading up to the George Washington game with an illness. Still, he scored 20 points against the Colonials, his fifth game in double figures in as many games since he arrived from Australia.

- F Jon Smith played just 22 minutes Wednesday because of foul trouble that kept him on the bench for most of the first half, but he still finished with six rebounds. Smith has made 14 of 22 shots in the past three games.


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