ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University overcame a sluggish first half to knock off Rockhurst University 79-47 in its first “official, unofficial” game under interim coach Jim Crews.
“The players did a real nice job of making those halftime adjustments and tightening up some things that we thought were loose at halftime,” Crews said. “We’re still in the process of getting a feel for who played with whom, how long guys play and the kind of responsibilities with that. [There were] a lot of things we have to clean up and there were a lot of things we thought we did good.”
“We didn’t come out like we should have at the start of the game,” senior Cody Ellis added. “Coaches told us what we needed to work on and we executed that really well. Just little things, making sure we denied where should be, boxing out and running.”
It was an all-around solid performance from the Billikens, who had four players finish in double figures. Ellis and fellow team captain Dwayne Evans shot a combined 61% from the field for a total of 24 points, but it was junior guard Mike McCall who led all scorers with 14.
“I thought Mike was our best defensive player today,” Crews said of McCall who also registered a pair of steals. “I thought he was very good for the most part. He did a good job of handling the ball.”
After allowing Rockhurst to trim the deficit to as little as nine late in the first half, SLU opened the second half on an 11-5 run, keyed by five points from Rob Loe, to build an 18-point lead just five minutes in. Jordair Jett also played an integral role in the Billikens’ opening surge, registering two assists and four points over the first five minutes of the second half.
“That was a good segment for us,” Crews said. “What was pleasing is the things that we had talked about, I thought they tweaked it and did a good job with that in terms of some points of pressure that we wanted.”
Despite showing flashes of the same scoring woes that plagued them at various times throughout last season, missing a few layups and shots in the paint, the Billikens were solid overall, shooting almost 65 percent from the field for the game and 55.6 percent from behind the arc in the second half.
After McCall’s nifty crossover move in the paint pushed the margin to 35, Cory Remekun put an exclamation mark on the victory with a dunk to give SLU its biggest lead of the afternoon at 72-35. Remekun, who averaged just 1.9 points per game last season, scored in double figures for the first time since Feb. 2011, recording 10 points to go along with seven rebounds.
“I think Cory got caught last year because of Brian Conklin,” Crews explained. “I do think that Cory was better last year, but Conklin was so darn good that he didn’t get as many minutes as he may have even deserved. It wasn’t like we could have played both of them at the same time just because of the assets they bring, but Cory keeps on getting better and better. He’s a neat kid.”
Freshman Keith Carter, who drew a nice ovation from the crowd when he first entered the game midway through the first half, drained a three-pointer with 2:30 left in the game for his first points as a Billiken. While those were his only points in the game, Carter managed to register four rebounds and an assist over his 19 minutes of play.
“He played pretty well for his first game as a freshman,” McCall said. “He had a couple turnovers, but he’s still getting used to it.”
The Billikens will open the regular season next Friday against USC Upstate. Tip-off from Chaifetz Arena is set for 7 p.m.Brian Haenchen covers the Saint Louis University men’s basketball team for The University News. You can follow him on Twitter (@Brian_Haenchen) or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org).