SLU returns from break 10-6

When Saint Louis University dismissed the first semester in the second week of December, the men’s basketball team had five wins and three losses. Since break, the Billikens have played another eight games and won five while losing three.

SLU was left with a sense of disappointment after dropping a close game to cross-state rival Mizzou, 77-73, and then a close loss to a tough Dayton team at home in the Savvis Center, 76-73.

“Dayton didn’t beat themselves,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I knew we had to play mistake-free or we wouldn’t come out with a win. In the second half, our concentration wasn’t there defensively.”

The Billikens then began their conference schedule by going to DePaul and being spanked on Fox Sports Midwest, 68-43.

“DePaul is a good, talented group. If they come ready to play, they look like a top-five team,” Romar said.

SLU returned home and regrouped as they defeated Southwest Missouri State, 80-70. The Billikens were led by senior guard Maurice Jeffers, who posted 26 points, five rebounds and two assists. Jeffers went 14-14 from the charity stripe, and six of nine from the field.

“We lost three games in a row, we wanted to get a game under our belt. We didn’t lose confidence,” said Jeffers. “I knew I had to step up and put the team on my back.”

Senior forward Justin Tatum posted 14 points and five rebounds and went a remarkable six of eight from the free throw line.

“Saint Louis played with a sense of urgency,” coach Barry Hinson said. “Saint Louis played a great game. We had 14 turnovers and one assist.”

The Billikens defense forced 14 turnovers and kept SMS under 46 percent from the field while scorching the nets with a 52.1 percent of their own.

“Southwest is a good basketball team. They’re a little like Dayton. Our guys, especially in the second half, did a good job. We really moved the ball well and took high- percentage shots,” Romar said.

The Billikens then traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to play in the Rainbow Classic just after Christmas. SLU had mixed results in the home of Magnum P.I. They defeated the Aggies of Texas A&M, 72-60, but couldn’t keep the streak alive as they were defeated by the host Hawaii Rainbows, 75-67.

The Billikens’ next challenge was in the form of the Steve Alford-led Iowa Hawkeyes. SLU was defeated, 68-56, by the Hawkeyes, completing their trip to the islands.

The Bills returned home and took out their frustration on an unsuspecting St. Bonaventure. The Billikens dominated and got back on the winning track by defeating the Bonnies 76-63. In a game that featured Jeffers dunking out so hard that it was Headline News Play of the Day.

The dunkfest continued against Louisville as Jeffers threw down five times on the Cardinals, as he posted a game high 27 points and pulled down a game high seven rebounds. Jeffers went 15-17 from the free throw line and 6-12 from the field.

“We did a good job converting and going to the basket,” Romar said. This past Saturday, the Billikens put together their third win in a row by defeating the Charlotte 49ers, 69-56. The team was led again by Jeffers as he put up 18 points and pulled down a season high 13 rebounds.

The Billikens will continue their conference schedule tonight on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. against Memphis at the Pyramid.