Billikens Take Two To Start The Season

Men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar started off his tour of coaching duty the best way possible, with two solid wins. The Saint Louis University men’s basketball team downed the Air Force Falcons and repelled the Alabama Crimson Tide this past weekend at the Earth Grains Classic at the Kiel Center.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Romar said. “They’re a great group to coach.”

The Billikens looked streaky in their home opener against Air Force on Saturday.

To start the game, senior shooting guard Justin Love stole the ball and sprinted down court for an easy lay in.

After a Chris Heinrich jumper and a three point play by Love, the Bills went up 7-0.

Air Force then hit a three pointer, but Heinrich answered right back with a lay up off a nice pass from Love. Maurice Jeffers then hit a jumper from the free-throw line to push the lead to eight.

The Bills went on a 19-7 run to push their lead to 18 points, making the score 35-17. The Falcons would not go away and continued to chip away at the double- digit lead.

With the Bills up 14 and a minute-and-a-half left, Lawrence Yazzi, of Air Force, canned two three pointers on two straight possessions to cut the Billiken lead to eight as both teams made their way to the locker room.

The second half opened as the half ended, with Air Force sinking another trey. With the lead cut to five, Baniak made two free throws, putting the Billikens up, 42-35.

SLU would maintain a double-digit lead until the seven-minute mark when Love shot an air ball. Air Force guard Jarvis Croff took the outlet pass and emphatically slammed away the Billikens 10-point lead.

Romar immediately called time-out. The Bills went to junior power forward Justin Tatum, who was fouled while going up strong. He missed the ensuing two free throws and the Falcons took advantage on a lay-up, cutting the lead to 62-56.

After hitting one of two free throws, Air Force guard Lawrence Yazzi hit a three pointer to cut the lead to seven.

Fergerson hit two free throws, but Yazzi answered right back with another three, cutting the lead to six. Love hit four crucial free throws down the stretch, to maintain the Billiken victory.

“They wouldn’t go away. He [Yazzi] hit some tough shots,” Tatum said. “They had a lot of heart.”

“Every time we’d make a run, they’d get back into it,” Romar said. “They’d hit a shot, or we’d turn it over.”

Love finished with a game high 27 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. Heinrich made his presence felt with 11 points, six boards and two blocks.

The Billikens slept happily Saturday night after their first win of the season, but it was back to work on Sunday against Alabama. The Crimson Tide was without its star center, 6′ 10″ Jeremy Hays. Hays is one of two seniors on their youthful, athletic squad.

The Billikens drew first blood, as they went up 4-0 on a Love jumper and a Baniak slam after a nice pass from Fergerson.

SLU went on a 16-4 run that saw the lead jump to 20-7. The Crimson Tide answered with a 14-4 run of their own, slicing the lead to 24-21.

After going back and forth, Alabama went on a 10-0 run to go up by two, 31-29.

Jeffers drove to the cup on a fast break and tied the game at 31. Marque Perry hit a jumper to put the Bills up.

The Bills took a 40-35 lead into the locker room at the half.

SLU opened the first four and a half minutes of the second half with an 11-2 run. Love bombed away with two threes and two long jumper from just inside the arc.

Alabama closed to within five within two and a half minutes left in regulation. SLU put the game out of reach with deadly accuracy from the free throw stripe as they hit five of six free throws. As the clock expired, SLU was 2-0 and victorious 78-70.

“We’re not going to get carried away; we’re not celebrating,” Romar said. “I’m proud of the way we competed and responded.”

Love played outstanding yet again. He poured in 28 points, six boards and eight assists against the Tide.

“He’s our go-to guy; he’s playing a complete game,” Romar said. “He did a good job on defense against their wing players who are future pros.”

Tatum put in another solid effort off the bench. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes of action.

“We got a fantastic effort out of Justin Tatum,” Romar said. “He’s a presence, someone to be reckoned with.”

After his weekend at SLU, Romar is pleased with his team’s effort, but he thinks that some things still need to be worked on.

“We need to take better care of the ball. We to do a better job of rebounding,” Romar said. “We need to execute better (on offense).”

SLU will take to the hardwood this Sunday when they take on the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs finished 11-18 last year and are 1-1 in exhibition play this season. Leading the Bulldogs is Adam Earnhardt, a 7′ 0″ junior center.