It was clear from tip-off the Billikens were playing for a little more than a win on this Sunday afternoon. SLU grinded out a 62-49 win over Valparaiso that former coach Rick Majerus would have been proud of, but the game was a sidebar. The Billikens won this won for their former coach, Majerus, who passed away less than 24 hours before the opening tip.
A moment of silence was observed before the game, followed by a standing ovation for the coach that returned the Billikens to national prominence. The players sported black ribbons on their left shoulder and the student section wore black to honor Majerus.
Junior Jordair Jett dove out-of-bounds to try and recover the opening tip-off, setting the stage for an impassioned effort from the Billikens.
Valpariso jumped out to a 5-0 start, but the veteran Billiken team, many learning the game from the meticulous mind of Majerus, didn’t blink. Senior Cody Ellis sunk two three-pointers as soon as he came off the bench, giving the Billikens an early 10-9 lead. Though the Billikens were somewhat plagued by turnovers in the first half, committing 8, they kept the Crusaders at arms length, taking a 31-24 lead into the locker room, keyed by a 10-0 run late in the first half.
SLU came out firing in the second half, as their defense created open-court opportunities. A Dwayne Evans steal leading to a three-point play that brought the lead to double digits for the first time at 43-31. On the next possession, John Manning layed it in to cap a 14-7 Billiken run to open the half.
Evans led the Billikens with 17 points and Jett added 14 as the players all honored the passing of their former mentor.
Valparaiso made a brief comback attempt, led by back-to-back three-pointers from Matt Kenney at the six minute mark, but they never came closer than 8 after the Billikens pulled ahead early in the second half.