Mitchell Leads Saint Louis Past Duquesne

ST. LOUIS — When Rick Majerus was hired as the basketball coach at Saint Louis University following the 2006-07 season, one of his first things he did was go out and recruit a point guard to be the future leader of his Billikens.

The coach found a good one from Wisconsin in Kwamain Mitchell.

Nearly three years later, the now sophomore point guard has turned into the undisputed leader of the Saint Louis University basketball team. On Saturday night Mitchell turned in another impressive performance, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to lead the Billikens to a 69-59 victory over visiting Duquesne in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at Chaifetz Arena.

"He's got a big burden on his shoulders, him and (Kyle) Cassity," Majerus said. "They have to defend, they have to rebound, they have to play a lot of minutes. Kwamain did an excellent job tonight. He's very heady. He hits shots. He's shooting much better. He's making good decision. He's becoming more of a consummate point guard. He looks for his points."

Kwamain Mitchell (Don Adams Jr. photo)

SLU improved to 19-9 overall and 10-4 in league play, which puts the Billikens alone in fourth place in the conference with two games to play. The team's 19 wins are the most in a season since Majerus took over — SLU went 16-15 in his first season and 18-14 a year ago — and the Billikens' 5-foot-10 sophomore guard has a lot to do with that.

Majerus praised Mitchell for his leadership at halftime, after an early 11-point lead disappeared and turned into a 33-33 deadlock at the intermission.

"We came out the first five minutes at the top of our game, stopping them, getting stops," Mitchell said. "I think we kind of got happy by our lead and they came back. We came back in the locker room. I told some of the guys, ‘Just listen to Coach. We have to move on.' In the second half I let the game come to me and we came out with the win."

"He came in and started talking to us: 'The shots are going to fall, we just have to get it done on the defensive end,'" sophomore forward Willie Reed said. "We had a six-minute stretch (in the first half) where we let up defensively. That's not what we are. We're a good defensive team. He came in and let us know we needed to 'D' up and our shots would fall in the second half."

Saint Louis trailed Duquesne 45-42 with 10 minutes remaining before Mitchell and the Billikens took control of the game.

After a free throw from Reed, Mitchell scored the next seven points for SLU on three impressive drives to the basket. His final bucket during that stretch gave the Billikens a 50-47 advantage they would not relinquish.

"Whatever the defense gives to me, I'm taking it," Mitchell said.

Mitchell knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing with 4:27 remaining and made three of his four free throw attempts in the final two minutes.

He finished with 23 points on six-of-eight shooting, including three of four from behind the 3-point arc. He knocked down eight of 10 free throw attempts and added six rebounds in 32 minutes.

Mitchell was one of four SLU players in double figures: Reed, sophomore forward Brian Conklin and freshman forward Cody Ellis each finished with 10 points. Conklin grabbed a game-high seven rebounds off the bench.

Sophomore guard Kyle Cassity had eight points, including two 3-pointers, to go along with six rebounds and six assists (against one turnover) in 38 minutes.

"I really like these guys," Majerus said. "They have a pretty good maturing to them and they really want to win. I really give them a lot of credit. It's a shame (Wednesday), just a shame that we were so right there. It's not like it got away from us. You have to give Xavier credit."

Bill Clark led Duquesne (15-13, 6-8) with 17 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers. B.J. Monteiro added 15 points.

Saint Louis returns to action on Wednesday in the final regular season home game at Chaifetz Arena against No. 20 Temple. Then the Billikens close out the regular season at Dayton on Saturday night.

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