ST. LOUIS — Saturday’s matinee between No. 24 Saint Louis and Fordham provided a familiar narrative for the hometown Billikens, who overcame a poor offensive performance to post a lopsided 70-48 victory over Fordham. It was win number 11 in a row for the Billikens, who are now 17-2 on the season.
“It’s hard to win one game, let alone 11 in a row,” SLU head coach Jim Crews said. “It is a great tribute to these guys. One of the great staples of this team over the last three years is that we win all kind of different ways – different guys step up at different times and we win different kind of games. That’s a great asset to have, how they go about their business from that standpoint.”
Jordair Jett became the program’s 30th 1,000-point scorer late in the second half with his 11th made free throw of the afternoon. He registered 18 points on 3 of 8 shooting with 12 free throws, but finished a rebound and four assists shy of recording the program’s first-ever triple-double.
The Billikens now have three active players with at least 1,000 points for their career (Jett, Dwayne Evans and Mike McCall Jr.), which ties them with VCU for most in the Atlantic 10.
“[Jett is] one of the best players in the conference,” McCall said of his teammate. “He’s stepped up for the team offensively and defensively. He’s been good for us.”
Evans led the team in scoring (21), rebounds (10) and steals (3). He was near perfect from the field, knocking in 8 of 11 shots over 30 minutes of playing time.
McCall finished in double-figures for the first time since he joined the 1,000-point club against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 21, knocking in 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting. It was a step in the right direction for the senior guard, who has been struggling on the offensive end.
“[McCall] struggled early on, but as the game went on he got a little bit better with it,” Crews said. “He’s been a great shooter. He’s not shot the ball particularly of late, but I’m optimistic… I think he’s been pressing a little bit, but hopefully we’ll get him through that.”
The Billikens extinguished any concerns of a potential Fordham comeback early in the second half, breaking off a 9-0 run that extended their lead to 23 two minutes in. That scoring binge was orchestrated almost entirely by Evans, who chipped six points on three layups.
The Rams tried to chip away at the deficit, pulling within 16 a few minutes later with an 8-2 run, but McCall retaliated with the next six points for Saint Louis before Jake Barnett knocked in his second 3-pointer of the game which pushed the score to 56-31 midway through the second half.
“Coach was telling us at halftime that we needed to do a better job of flowing into our offense and not letting their zone get set,” Jett explained. “I think we knocked down our open shots, which we weren’t hitting in the first half, and we executed.”
SLU shot a respectable 50 percent (12-24) from the field and actually knocked in five of its nine 3-pointer attempts in the second half. But the final percentages were watered down by a woeful first half performance—8 for 28 from the field, 1 of 15 on 3-pointers (they tried just 13 treys in the entire game vs. St. Bonaventure). It did improve from the charity stripe, knocking in 24 of 34 free throws.
“We had a lot of good looks—the shots just weren’t falling, but our defensive intensity picked us up,” Jett explained. “We forced some turnovers and got easy buckets off our defense.”
Defensively, the Billikens limited Fordham to 28 percent shooting from the field (6 of 31 in the first half), swatted six shots and recorded seven steals.
Crews admitted afterwards that there were concerns over how the team would fare against one of the nation’s top offensive-rebounding teams, but they were impressive, winning the battle on the boards 47-36, while limiting the Rams to just 11 offensive boards and 14 second chance points.
In terms of individual match ups, Saint Louis did a tremendous job containing Fordham’s prolific backcourt duo.
Senior Branden Frazier, who entered the game averaging 19 points per game, was shut out completely—missing all 10 field goals he attempted and both free throws. He finished with four boards and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3:3.
Jon Severe, who leads the nation’s freshmen in scoring, registered 22 points, but did so on 9 of 25 shooting (4-8 on 3-pointers). He also chipped in two rebounds and a steal.
“Fraizer—we did a great job on Fraizer because he’s a really good player,” Crews explained.
“I’m a big fan of his and have been very impressed with him over the last couple of seasons. He makes other guys better. We did a good job—he certainly did not play as well as I know he wants to play and everything else, but it was a team defense. It wasn’t just one guy. One guy was doing good, but we corralled things around him. Same thing with Severe. He’s got a quick release and he’s offensive-minded.”
With the win, the Billikens improved to 4-0 within conference play for the first time since the 1964-65 season. They will put their perfect 6-0 road record on the line Wednesday night against Duquesne. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.