Dwayne Evans matched a season-high with 21 points to help Saint Louis University to a 70-49 victory over Texas A&M in the opening game of the Championship Round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The Billikens will play Kansas tomorrow night in the championship game.
The Billikens got back to playing the style of defense that made them so lethal last season, limiting the Aggies to just 19 of 43 shooting for the game, while generating 26 points off 19 Texas A&M turnovers.
“It’s really good—they did bounce back,” interim coach Jim Crews said of his team. “I think these guys have been very resilient with a lot of adversity this year. We’ve had more than our share with a lot of different things. It is what it is and these guys understand that. We can only do the things that we can do. They’ve responded very well under some very difficult times.”
Foul trouble limited Evans to just two points over five minutes in the first half, but he came back strong in the second half, hitting seven of eight shots from the field for 19 points.
“I feel like I kind of let my team down in the first half, got two quick fouls that were just not necessary,” Evans explained. “So, I just wanted to come out in the second half, bring my team energy and just do the things they expect me to do.”
Any negative effects of Evans’ absence were offset by the first half performance of senior Cory Remekun. Remekun, who missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury, blocked a pair of shots and scored nine points in the game’s first 20 minutes. He finished the game with 12 points, just one off his career-high of 13 set against Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010.
“Obviously, having this guy out there really helps us,” Crews said of Remekun. “He gives us energy, he gives us knowledge out there in a lot of different ways and he’s done a really great job for us…He gives us a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score that we really need.”
“He’s huge for us,” Evans said. “Not even statistically, he’s just a big presence on the court. He gives us a lot of energy. He talks. He’s a key component to our defense that obviously wasn’t there at the game against Santa Clara, but tonight he came up big.”
“It felt great to get back there. I was itching to get back out there,” Remekun said with a smile. “I’ve been trying to play the last two games, but it’s probably been too early to get back, so we waited until the Texas A&M game to get back.”
Despite not registering a bucket over his 22 minutes of playing time, junior Jake Barnett gave SLU some added depth at forward, recording six rebounds to go with a pair of steals and assists. The 6-5 forward’s performance impressed Crews, who cracked a smile when talking about Barnett’s contributions.
“I thought Jake really played well,” the interim coach said. “He didn’t hit a bucket, but I thought he really played well defensively. He got some rebounds for us. He gave us some good directions with situations. That was good to see. It was really good to see.”
Back-to-back dunks from Cody Ellis and Remekun gave the Billikens a 12-point lead midway through the first half. The Aggies refused to go away quietly, however, pulling within nine at halftime. Saint Louis did itself no favors at the end of the first half, mustering just five points over the six points over the final 5:31.
Saint Louis came out firing in the second half, out-scoring Texas A&M 15-6 over the opening six minutes. Evans led the charge with seven points, including a layup to give the Bills an 18-point lead with 14:12 left.
An injury to freshman Keith Carter forced the Billikens to lean heavily on junior guards Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr., who played 38 and 35 minutes respectively.
McCall, who has played at least 35 minutes in each of SLU’s first three games this season, finished in double-figures for the second time this season with 13.
While he had just three points, Jett was equally effective for the Billikens, registering eight assists to go with two blocks and three steals. The 6-1 guard also pulled in five rebounds for Saint Louis, who out-rebounded Texas A&M 31-25.
“Jordair, he has good vision of the floor,” Crews explained. “A lot of guys when they get a pass from one direction, they only see the other direction that you’re going to. I’d say 75 percent of players are like that. Jordair is able to see both sides of the floor once the ball is reversed…He’s very gifted with that.”
Elston Turner hit one of two free throws to give Texas A&M a one-point lead early in the first half, but McCall responded with a 3-pointer to put the Billikens up for good.
It was not all good news for the Billikens, however, as sophomore Grandy Glaze dislocated his shoulder late in the second half. While Glaze played less than 30 seconds Monday night against Texas A&M, the team’s depth is already being strained by injuries to Kwamain Mitchell and Carter.
When asked what they knew about their presumed next opponent, Crews and Remekun chuckled before deferring to Evans, who admitted that he didn’t know much about the Jayhawks.
“I don’t know that much about them,” he said. “I know they have a very historic program and they have a very good team, I know they’re ranked, but that’s about as far as it goes. Tomorrow we’ll go over sets and go from there.”
Tip-off between SLU and Kansas is slated for 8:30 pm Tuesday night at Sprint Center.