Billikens Moving Up In A-10 Standings

Saint Louis' Rick Majerus has let the world know of his unhappiness about playing in the Atlantic 10 throughout the season. His team seems to be taking out their coach's frustration on the rest of the conference.

Saint Louis has won six straight games to raise its record to 18-8, 9-3 in the Atlantic 10. The Billikens have risen to fourth place in the standings, which is very important since the top four finishers earn a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

To think Saint Louis would have finished in the top four at the beginning of the season would have been close to unfathomable as the Billikens have no seniors or juniors on their active roster. Yet they are now among the elite teams in what has been a strong year for the Atlantic 10.

"We are what we are," Majerus said. "We're playing our (rear ends) off. I really enjoy the guys. We'll get better, too. The guys we have will get better and we have more help on the way."

Saint Louis is 1 1/2 games behind first-place Richmond (11-2) so it at least has an outside chance of an improbable regular-season championship. However, the Billikens have a rough end-of-season schedule as they host Xavier on Feb. 24, Duquesne on Feb. 27, and nationally-ranked Temple on March 3 before finishing at Dayton on March 6.

"We have a tough road but we're very confident now," sophomore guard Kyle Cassity said.

NOTES, QUOTES

- Saint Louis is 14-1 at Chaifetz Arena this season and 4-7 in games away from home. However, the Billikens have won three straight road games for the first time since 2002-03. Their only home loss was to Missouri State on Dec. 19.

- Saint Louis shot a season-best 80 percent from the free throw line in its 69-56 victory at Massachusetts on Feb. 21, making 12 of 15 attempts.

ON THE SPOT:

F Jon Smith's playing time has been sparse in the four games since he was removed from the starting lineup. Smith has played a combined 26 minutes and scored just three points.

QUOTE TO NOTE:

"We were like those dogs in 'Cool Hand Luke,' sitting there with our tongues hanging out. The guys showed the heart of a racehorse." -- Coach Rick Majerus after Saint Louis rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat Rhode Island 62-57 on Feb. 17.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP:

Saint Louis won its first four games, split its next 16 then has gone on to win its last six in a row. That leaves the Billikens 18-8, 9-3 in the Atlantic 10. G Kwamain Mitchell is averaging 15.8 points a game and F Willie Reed is averaging 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds.

PLAYER ROTATION:

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

GAME REVIEW:

Saint Louis 68, Dayton 65
Saint Louis 62, Rhode Island 57
Saint Louis 69, Massachusetts 56

GAME PREVIEW:

vs. Xavier, Wednesday, Feb. 24
vs. Duquesne, Saturday, Feb. 27
vs. Temple, Wednesday, March 3
at Dayton, Saturday, March 6

IN FOCUS:

Saint Louis has lost four straight games to Xavier, including twice last season, 70-44 at home in the regular season and 66-47 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at Atlantic City. In the regular-season game, Saint Louis shot 31 percent, including 10 percent from three-point range while Jason Love had 11 points for Xavier. In the conference tournament, Willie Reed scored 10 points for Saint Louis and Love had 10 points for Xavier.

ROSTER REPORT:

- G Kyle Cassity scored a team-high 16 points in the 69-56 victory at Massachusetts on Feb. 21, his highest total since an 18-point effort in a victory over Kennesaw State on Nov. 22. Cassity has scored in double figures in back-to-back games after going eight games without doing so.

- G Christian Salecich has averaged 7.3 points and 2.5 assists in the four games since he returned to the starting lineup. He started the first 16 games this season before going to the bench for five games.

- G Femi John has sat out the last 10 games with a knee injury and is getting closer to returning. He started seven straight games at one point but came off the bench in his last three games before being injured.  


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