Billikens Pull Off Comeback Victory

ST. LOUIS — It took 50 minutes to decide Monday night's College Basketball Invitational quarterfinal game between Saint Louis University and visiting Wisconsin-Green Bay. The last 23 seconds belonged to Christian Salecich.

The freshman shooting guard from Australia had struggled in his previous two games, scoring a total of four points on two-of-nine shooting and had missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

But Salecich came up big late on Monday, scoring six points in the final 22.4 seconds to lift the Billikens, who trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half, to a 68-62 come-from-behind victory in two overtimes at Chaifetz Arena.

"They never gave up," SLU coach Rick Majerus said. "They didn't quit."

Saint Louis (22-11) will next host Princeton (22-8), a 74-68 overtime winner over IUPUI on Monday, in the CBI semifinals at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night at Chaifetz Arena.

Sophomore power forward Willie Reed tied his career-high with a game-high 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting. He added 10 rebounds and his two blocked shots broke the 30-year-old single-season school record of 68 set by Kelvin Henderson during the 1979-80 season.

Sophomore point guard Kwamain Mitchell and freshman forward Cody Ellis each added 14 points. Mitchell, who played 43 minutes, also added four assists. Sophomore guard Kyle Cassity had six assists, five points and four rebounds in a team-high 46 minutes.

"Both teams were so tired at the end," Majerus said. "It was like punch-drunk fighters trying to hang in there. I applaud our team for withstanding this."

Saint Louis led 27-25 at halftime, but that advantage quickly disappeared as Green Bay (22-13) scored the first 13 points of the second half as the Billikens went nearly nine minutes — bridging the end of the second quarter and start of the third — without scoring.

Green Bay led by as many as 11 points in the second half, before the Billikens began their comeback. The Phoenix led 53-51 following Rian Pearson's putback dunk with 1 minute and 40 seconds remaining.

SLU had a basket by Ellis disallowed with a goaltending call with 27 seconds remaining that would have tied the score. Instead, Mitchell stole the ensuing inbounds pass and quickly dished to Reed for a layup that tied it up at 53-53 and sent the game to overtime.

Each team made just one field goal attempt in the first overtime period and went into the second OT tied at 56-56.

Reed sat out the first three minutes of the second overtime with cramping but returned to put Saint Louis ahead 62-60 with a thunderous dunk with 1:50 remaining. After a free throw from Green Bay's Bryquis Perine, the Billikens took the lead for good on a 3-pointer from the left wing by Salecich with 22.4 seconds remaining.

Following a free throw by Green Bay's Rahmon Fletcher, Salecich made a free throw with 13.3 seconds left and ended the game with a breakaway layup with 1 second remaining.

"It was a hard-fought game," Majerus said. "That is a real good team. They have a good record. They are a good club."

Troy Cotton led Green Bay with 17 points, including five 3-pointers. Fletcher, a junior guard from the Kansas City area, scored 16 with two 3-pointers. Pearson came off the bench to contribute 14 points.

JORDAN INJURED

Freshman guard Justin Jordan was injured with 6:42 remaining in the second half when he lunged for a loose ball on the defensive end of the floor. It was believed that Jordan suffered a dislocation or fracture of his thumb and would miss the remainder of the season.

Jordan becomes the fourth Billikens guard to suffer a season-ending injury, joining junior Paul Eckerle (knee), freshman Jeff Reid (concussion) and redshirt freshman Femi John (knee).

The injury leaves SLU short-handed in the backcourt. After regular starters Mitchell, Cassity and Salecich, the only other healthy guard on the roster is freshman walk-on Darrin Young, who has appeared in just eight minutes over five games.

Jordan, a high-scoring guard in high school in Fort Wayne, Ind., had a productive freshman season. He averaged 18.2 minutes per game over 33 games and averaged 4.9 points per game. He made 38.3 percent of his 3-point attempts (31 of 81) and his 58 assists rank fourth on the team.


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