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Saint Louis Athletics

Saint Louis Athletics

While the rest of Saint Louis University faculty, staff and students enjoyed days off ranging in number from 10-26, the men’s basketball team received no such break from play, playing six games over the break, and nine since the last issue of the UNews. The team currently sits at 9-8 and is 1-4 in the Atlantic 10 conference.

The first home game with the entire university back was celebratory in more ways than one. Not only was there a larger crowd of 6,530, but the game against Duquesne on Jan. 14, marked the 100-year anniversary celebration of Billiken basketball.  To celebrate, the first 5,000 fans were given a sixth man jersey replica towel, and the first 750 students were given free pizza and anniversary towels. A SLU All-Century Team was also unveiled and consists of 16 players. Among those dubbed with this honor are Billiken-greats Anthony Bonner and Kwamain Mitchell, and two players off of last year’s record-setting roster in Dwayne Evans and Jordair Jett.

SLU posted a 78-69 victory over the Dukes. Junior guard Ash Yacoubou had a double-double on the evening including a career high 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Billikens also had a season high 22 assists on 25 field goals.

Prior to playing Duquesne, SLU had back-to-back road contests against Davidson and George Washington respectively. However, fortune didn’t follow the team to the East Coast, and they lost both games. The Jan. 10, matchup against A-10 newcomer Davidson marked the first time that the two teams had ever played each other, and SLU fell 89-54. The George Washington game was much closer, with SLU losing 75-72.

Against the Colonials, SLU had a shot to tie in the last seconds of play with the help of a forced turnover. Sophomore guard Mike Crawford inbounded the ball to freshman forward Austin Gillmann with 1.5 seconds left, and Gillmann proceeded to pass the ball back to Crawford in the corner. Crawford’s buzzer beater was off the mark – and as it turns out, it would have been a 2-pointer instead of a 3 – and the Billikens saw their second loss in conference play. Freshman forward Milik Yarborough scored a career-high 26 points in the contest.

Before their East Coast trip, the Billikens played six straight home games coming off the 81-52 loss on Dec. 6, at Wichita State.  The first of these home games was Dec. 9, against South Dakota State. SLU fell to the Jackrabbits 62-55 with Yarborough scoring 15, more than double the next closest Billiken (Gillmann with 7).

Next, SLU faced across-the-river rival, SIUE on Dec. 13. The team handled the Cougars 67-61; the win began a three-game win streak, the team’s longest of the season to date. The other two wins in this streak came against Texas-Pan American, 75-69, and Vermont, 58-53.

The Bills’ final nonconference game was against Vanderbilt. Junior guard Austin McBroom and Yacoubou both scored 15 apiece, and Yarborough added 13, but SLU fell 70-55.
SLU opened conference play by hosting the Rhode Island Rams. Yarborough was again a big contributor in the 65-53 loss, posting 19 points. Yacoubou added 11 points, while Crawford scored 10. Senior forward John Manning recorded four blocks.

Yarborough is currently the A-10 Rookie of the Week. Yarborough scored 26 points against George Washington, the most sby a freshman since Kwamain Mitchell in 2009,  and added a team-high 18 against Davidson for an average of 22 points per game last week. He shot 11-18 from the field against the Colonials, and 7-11 against the Wildcats. Yarborough is currently leading the A-10 in scoring in conference games with 21 points per game. He also leads the team in points per game with 10.8 and is sixth in the A-10 in field goal percentage at .557.

Other notable news over the break includes senior forward Grandy Glaze’s shoulder surgery that occurred on Jan. 5, as reported by Sporting News. Glaze suffered a separated shoulder in October and hasn’t played in any games this season. Head coach Jim Crews and others in the program were hopeful of his return, and his condition was always said to be day-to-day. While SLU hasn’t commented on his return, it is widely speculated by Sporting News and Hutchnews.com that he will not return this season.

Also changing over the break was the ever-evolving starting lineup. While Crews has said all season that he is looking for the right combinations and players to fill roles, he demonstrated that no starting spot is secure, and that he is still playing with the lineup. McBroom, who seemed a starting lock for the season as one of two returning, healthy upperclassmen, was first left out of the starting lineup against George Washington and again against Davidson and Duquesne.

A variety of players have seen time in the starting five over the break, including sophomore forward Reggie Agbeko, freshmen guards Marcus Bartley and Davell Roby, Manning, Yarborough and Yacoubou. Other players contributing big minutes for SLU are Crawford with 17.8 per game, Gillmann with 14.3, and freshman guard Miles Reynolds with 12.4.

Next up for the Billikens following the win against Duquesne is a trip to Dayton, Ohio, to face the A-10 rival Flyers. Dayton is currently 14-2 overall and 4-0 in the A-10. They are also undefeated (9-0) on their home floor this season.

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Men begin conference play