Bills lose 63-61 to No. 16 VCU

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Bills lose 63-61 to No. 16 VCU

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Close game for SLU

The 9,643 fans in attendance at the Jan. 23, men’s basketball game against conference-leader VCU, and those who watched on ESPN2, might have felt they were experiencing déjà vu. You see, the year before, when the Rams came to Chaifetz Arena, the tables were turned compared to this year. SLU was the ranked team, No. 12 at the time, as opposed to VCU, which came into this contest at No. 16. In last season’s Feb. 15, matchup, SLU had a 16-game winning streak at stake; this year VCU had a 10-game streak to uphold.

But as the game went on, the similarities between last year and this year became more apparent. The first half of this year’s game was very back and forth, each team going on small five-to-six-point runs. The half saw seven ties and four lead changes, a total of 11 and 10, respectively, on the night. Last year was no different, as the score was tied six times and the lead changed 10 times in the first half.

Even the final minutes felt vaguely familiar. As time ticked down in last year’s game, SLU led by four after a VCU 3-pointer threatened their lead 28 seconds remaining. In the final minutes, the Bills sank free-throws to give them a 64-62 victory and extend their win streak.

In this year’s game, SLU was up by two following a 10-2 run, 60-58, with 40 seconds to play. VCU then hit a three pointer, eerily similar to last year, to give them a 61-60 edge. Freshman forward Milik Yarbrough was then sent to the free-throw line with 7.3 seconds to play, where he was 1-for-2, tying the score at 61. VCU forward Treveon Graham, the Rams’ leading scorer in the game both last year and this year, then drove down the court and made a layup with 0.8 seconds left to give VCU a 63-61 advantage. SLU had a chance in the final tenths of a second to tie or win the game, but the ball was knocked out of bounds twice on attempted plays, and their chance was denied. The Billikens have a chance for revenge on Feb. 17, when they travel to Richmond to face the Rams again.

“Obviously we didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” head coach Jim Crews said. “I thought our guys did a good job of competing at a good pace.”

Yarbrough led the Billikens in points with 15, 13 of them coming in the second half. Junior guard Austin McBroom, who only played eight minutes the prior game against Dayton, played 31 minutes, the second most on the team, and was also second on the team in scoring with 12. Junior guard Ash Yacoubou, who logged 25 minutes, contributed nine points and tied the team-high rebounds with six.

Freshman guard Davell Roby led the team in minutes with 33. Nine Billikens saw the floor on the night, compared to 14 the previous game. The four players who entered the game from the bench ties the least, and most shallow bench play, so far this season.

One characteristic of this VCU team is their daunting full-court press. However, SLU had 14 turnovers on the night, on par with their season average of about 13 per game.

“It [VCU’s full-court press] was like the back of their shirts said: havoc. Once we calmed down and were ball-strong, it was really nothing,” Yarbrough said. “We’re sick of losing; we need to get on a roll.”

Next up for the Billikens is George Mason, who is currently 12th in the Atlantic 10, one spot behind the Billikens. SLU has already played the current top-five A-10 teams over the last six games in VCU, Dayton, Rhode Island, Duquesne and George Washington. Tip-off for the George Mason game is at 6 p.m., in Fairfax, Va., on Jan. 29.

For the second straight year, the SLU athletic department is holding a contest giving students the opportunity to attend, with all expenses paid,  the A-10 Championship in Brooklyn, N.Y. To enter the contest, students must send a video no more than 45 seconds and fill out an online form on the SLU Athletics website. Students can enter the contest in groups of 2-6; entries must be submitted by Feb. 1, with winners notified by Feb. 10.