Saint Louis University used its experience and suffocating defense in the final minutes to overcome a poor shooting performance and conquer Duquesne 73-64 in Pittsburgh. The victory ended a two-game skid for the Billikens and gave them their first road win of the year.
“I thought our defense tonight was very, very good,” Interim Coach Jim Crews said during his postgame interview on 101 ESPN. “I thought we were persistent. Our shooting never got us down, which is good because we didn’t shoot the ball very well—and I think we had some good looks.”
SLU’s win comes despite shooting 37 percent from the field (21-56) and hitting just three of 21 three-pointers (14.3 percent). The Bills compensated for their lackluster shooting percentages by hitting 28 of 39 free throws and forcing 16 turnovers.
“Our philosophy offensively is just to compete for good shots. You’re not going to make all good shots, that just doesn’t happen,” Crew’s. “Cutting hard, snapping the ball, snap your dribble, quick to the screen, roll hard, whatever you’re doing offensively, do it aggressively.”
Senior Cody Ellis led the way from the free throw line, hitting 11-of-12 free throws en route to a team-high 16-point performance.
“Cody really did a nice job,” Crews said. “He got to the line and made some big defensive plays for us in the end also.”
Junior Jerry Jones tipped in a missed three-point attempt to give Duquesne a 52-51 advantage late in the second half, but SLU stormed back, using a bucket from senior Kwamain Mitchell and a pair of free throws from Jordair Jett to grab a three-point lead with 5:21 left.
The Dukes refused to go away quietly, capitalizing on an Ellis turnover with a game tying three-pointer from Quevyn Winters. That would be as close as Duquesne would get, though, as the Billikens responded with a 9-1 run capped by a Jett-three to pull ahead 64-56 with 2:28 left.
Inconsistent free throw shooting over the game’s final 90 seconds allowed Duquesne to pull within seven with 39 seconds left, but its offense went stale allowing Saint Louis to pull ahead.
“For the most part, our guys did an excellent job,” Crews said. “They stayed with it. We got down three, four, maybe 5, points to start the second half, that didn’t discourage us. We just kept plugging away.”
Jones led all scorers with 18 points to go with 11 rebounds, but he only managed to get to the free throw line twice for the Dukes, who hit just 9 of 19 free throws—they hit consecutive free throws only twice. Derrick Colter also finished in double figures for Duquesne with 13 points.
Dwayne Evans was the Billikens’ most efficient shooter, hitting four of seven shots and six of eight from the line as part of a 14-point, six rebound performance.
Grandy Glaze, who made his first start since the second game of the season against Santa Clara, played 27 minutes, registering eight points and 11 rebounds. The sophomore forward was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, but missed on four free throw attempts.
“Grandy’s got a lot of energy and we just thought that’s what we needed. The last couple weeks in practice he’s been doing really well—he’s still coming off that shoulder injury, but he’s back 100 percent now—and we thought we needed that little pop in our step,” Crews said. “He runs the floor and that opens things up for other guys.”
While he finished with 11 points, six assists and two steals, Mitchell hit just four of 13 shots and was 0-for-6 from behind the arc.
It was no better for Rob Loe who had just one field shot on seven tries (0-for-5 on three-pointers) as part of a two point performance. Loe has cooled off considerably since having career-performances against Massachusetts and Temple, scoring a combined nine points over his last two games.
Jett also finished in double figures for the Billikens, who improved to 2-2 in the Atlantic 10 and 13-5 overall.
Next up for the Billikens is a trip to St. Bonaventure, N.Y. to take on the Bonnies. Coincidentally, SLU enters Saturday’s tilt in search of its first win at St. Bonaventure in what will be Crews’ first visit to the Reilly Center.
“Of all the places I’ve been, and I’ve been to almost all of them, I’ve never been to [St. Bonaventure],” he said, laughing.
Tip-off between SLU and St. Bonaventure is set for 3 p.m. on Jan. 26.