Like most other teams with first year coaches, St. Louis has undergone some upheaval since Brad Soderberg took the reins this spring. Three players transferred, and two signees from the previous coaching staff's regime did not come in. Sound familiar?
Despite that turnover, all five Billiken starters return this year, including all-conference guard Marque Perry. The 6-1 senior is the only double figure scorer for the balanced Billikens, averaging 17 points per game.
St. Louis strength, is in its backcourt, where precocious freshman Anthony Drejaj and junior Josh Fisher have teamed with Perry to form a solid trio. It only took Drejaj (also a WVU recruiting target) one game to work his way into the lineup. Drejaj (6-2) is averaging almost seven points per outing.
Fisher is an all-around threat, averagin 9.2 points per game wile recording more than three steals per contest.
Upfront, St. Louis features massive juco transfer Kenny Brown (6-10, 250) in the middle. Brown is the Billikens' major inside thread, averaging 8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He's teamed with 6-7 forward Chris Sloan, who provides some scoring punch with 7.4 points per game.
Guard Drew Diener (6-5) is the top Billiken off the bench, and also St. Louis' chief three point threat. Diener has almost one third of St. Louis three point field goals this year. Chris Braun (6-10, 235) provides some shot blocking and defensive help inside.
One other player to keep an eye on is 6-9 forward Izik Ohanon, who just became eligible after sitting out eight games due to eligibility issues over games he played while a member of the Israeli army. Ohanon was recruited by several Big East teams, and could provide a much needed boost to the St. Louis froncourt.
This matchup of freshman point guards will have a great impact on the outcome of this critical game.
WVU 8-2, 0-0
SLU 5-5, 0-0
|Sat 1/4 2:10 PM|
WVU leads 2-1
WVU - 79
SLU - 120
Drejaj has been a bit more of an offensive threat for the Billikens, but Durisseau-Collins has been very effective at creating scoring chances for his teammates, as his 29 assists attest.
Drejaj will have a height advantage, as most guards do, over the shorter Durisseau-Collins when WVU is in man, but the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 zone could also cause some problems for Drezaz, who will have to work around taller foes at the top of the West Virginia zone.
The key to the St. Louis offense, just like WVU's is patience. The Billikens make the extra pass to get a better shot, and when their offense is clicking, can easily frustrate opposing defenses. Drejaj has been excellent in running that offense, so WVU's challenge will be to turn the tables and rush the freshman into some mistakes.
SLU: Floyd McClain (Back) Out
St. Louis and West Virginia are mirror images in many respects. Both teams run disciplined offenses that stress movement and screening. Both value the ball, and both emphasize field goal percentage defense as an important criterion in their game plans.
WVU might have a bit of an edge in the three point game. The Mountaineers give up only 31% shooting to opponents from that distance, while St. Louis allows a 37% mark. West Virginia is also a much better three point shooting team than the Billikens, so look for the three point shot to be an even bigger part of the WVU game plan in this contest.
St. Louis is good home team with a great homecourt advantage, and WVU has yet to win a game on an opponent's home floor. St. Louis sports a 77% winning percentage at home over the last nine seasons. The Billikens averaged almost 11,600 fans per game this year, so WVU isn't likely to get a welcome reception.
This also could be one of the few games where WVU has an even chance on the boards. St. Louis has a -2 rebounding deficit per game this year, partly due to their three guard offense. Although the Billikens could put a lineup of 6-10, 6-10 and 6-9 in the frontcourt, they rarely do so.
This is the first meeting of the series on a home court. All three previous meetings have been at neutral sites.
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St. Louis took a preseason trip to Spain and France in August. Such preseason trips are of immense value in terms of additional practice time, as well as in building team chemistry, especially with a new head coach.
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Every year, we ask, 'What's a Hokie?' So, it's entirely appropriate to ask 'What's a Billiken?'
A Billiken is a symbol of good luck that became a national craze in the early days of the twentieth century. It was the creation of a Missouri art teacher that was adopted by Chicago firm called the Billiken Company, thus giving the cartoon like creature a name.