Billikens' Comebacks Fuel Win Streak

Saint Louis is proving to be an impossible team to put away.

The Billikens have won four consecutive games, and their last three victories have come after they have fallen behind by double digits. Despite not having a senior or junior on the active roster, Saint Louis keeps winning and is 16-8, 7-3 in the Atlantic 10 and within 1 1/2 games of first-place Richmond.

Winning the regular-season conference title seemed far-fetched at the start of the season and Saint Louis still would need a lot of things to break its way. However, the Billikens' confidence couldn't be any higher.

"That's not something we need to keep doing," guard Kyle Cassity said of falling behind by large margins. "We've got to come with it but we do feel like we're not going to lose with the way we're playing now. We feel like we can win every game."

Saint Louis will try to keep that good feeling going when it plays host to Rhode Island on Feb. 17 then travels to Massachusetts on Feb. 21.

NOTES, QUOTES

- Coach Rick Majerus, for the second time this season, publicly called on the school administration to consider leaving the Atlantic 10 and joining a conference with schools closer to St. Louis, such as the Missouri Valley Conference. The Billikens wound up spending nine days in Philadelphia when they defeated La Salle on Feb. 6 and St. Joseph's on Feb. 9, then could not leave the city until Feb. 12 because a major snowstorm shut down the airport.

- Saint Louis has allowed 77 three-point field goals this season, fewest in the nation. By comparison, Temple ranks second in the Atlantic 10 with 124 three-pointers allowed.

ON THE SPOT:

F Willie Reed has been consistently inconsistent all season and is going through another down cycle. He scored just two points in 28 minutes in a 68-65 double-overtime victory over Dayton on Feb. 13 and has scored in single digits in two straight games after scoring in double figures in five of the previous six.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"Most successful people in life make mistakes and say, 'You know what? I made a mistake and I'm not going to let it happen again.' So the school is afraid to say it made a mistake, that's all." -- Coach Rick Majerus on wanting the school administration to admit it erred in joining the Atlantic 10 for the 2005-06 season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP:

Saint Louis started the season streaky as it won its first four games, lost its next three then won its next three. Since then, the Billikens have gone 9-5, including victories in each of its last four games, to improve to 16-8, 7-3 in the Atlantic 10. G Kwamain Mitchell is averaging 16.1 points and F Willie Reed has averages of 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds.

PLAYER ROTATION:

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

GAME REVIEW:

Saint Louis 68, La Salle 65
Saint Louis 56, St. Joseph's 52
Saint Louis 68, Dayton 65

GAME PREVIEW:

vs. Rhode Island, Wednesday, Feb. 17
at Massachusetts, Sunday, Feb. 21
vs. Xavier, Wednesday, Feb. 24
vs. Duquesne, Saturday, Feb. 27
vs. Temple, Wednesday, March 3

IN FOCUS:

Saint Louis is 4-2 against Rhode Island since joining the Atlantic 10 in 2005-06 but lost to the Rams 69-61 on the road last season. Mitchell led Saint Louis with 17 points while Lamonte Ulmer topped Rhode Island with 18 points.

ROSTER REPORT:

- G Kwamain Mitchell followed up one of his worst games of the season with one of his best as he scored 21 points, played all 45 minutes and banked home a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime as Saint Louis beat Dayton 68-65 in double overtime on Feb. 10. That came after Mitchell scored just nine points in a 56-52 victory at St. Joseph's on Feb. 9, ending a string of 16 consecutive double-digit scoring efforts.

- G Christian Salecich moved back into the starting lineup against St. Joseph's and scored 11 points in 30 minutes, then had five points and four assists in 40 minutes against Dayton. The freshman started the first 17 games this season before being removed from the lineup for six games.

- F Jon Smith has moved back to the bench with the reinsertion of Salecich into the lineup. Smith, a freshman, played only eight minutes in his last start and has logged just a combined 13 minutes off the bench in the last two games.


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