Men’s basketball struggles to find a rhythm, drops to 6-10 overall and 1-3 in the A-10

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Men’s basketball struggles to find a rhythm, drops to 6-10 overall and 1-3 in the A-10

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The Saint Louis University men’s basketball team spent their Christmas Break preparing for Atlantic 10 Conference competition with their pre-conference schedule. The Bills hosted Wichita State on Dec. 5. Wichita State put together a 20-5 run in the first half that gave them a 32-25 advantage at the half.

Wichita continued to dominate in the second half, extending their lead to 49-33. The Shockers’ largest lead of the night was 22, but SLU was able to cut the lead to 15, falling 68-53.

Sophomore center Austin Gillmann had a career-high 12 points after hitting three-of-four attempted three pointers. Sophomore guard Miles Reynolds had 14 points for the night, including shooting seven-of-eight from behind the free throw line.

The Billikens continued their schedule at home on Dec. 12 against Alabama A&M. Both teams exchanged blows throughout the first half, with neither being capable of taking a commanding lead – there were 15 lead changes and five ties in that half alone. Senior guard Ash Yacoubou contributed two threes to help the Billikens gain a 34-28 halftime lead.

The Bills began the second half with a 10-0 run, which led to their first double-digit lead, 44-34. Although Alabama A&M was able to cut the deficit to 10 twice, the Billikens refused to let the tide turn in Alabama’s direction. SLU was able to seal a 75-58 victory.

SLU faced UT Martin in Chaifetz Arena on Dec. 16. Although the Billikens took an early 12-4 lead, UT Martin caught fire behind the three point line and drilled eight of their attempted 15 threes. This gave them a 13-point lead at halftime, which was extended to 23 with 12:50 remaining in the game. SLU put together a 14-0 run that cut the lead to only nine with just under eight minutes left to play. Thanks to clutch free throw shooting and an imperative three from sophomore guard Marcus Bartley, the Bills cut the deficit to three at 63-60 with only five minutes left to play. Unfortunately, the SLU offense lost momentum and fell to UT Martin 82-76.

The Billikens welcomed Indiana State to Chaifetz on Dec. 19. The Billikens quickly gained a 9-2 lead in the first four minutes, but Indiana State’s offense turned the momentum with an 11-0 spurt with 12:09 left in the first half. Although there were several lead changes, the Billikens clinched a 27-24 lead at the half. Indiana State regrouped at halftime and dominated the start of the second half — a 24-3 run put the Billikens down 48-30 with 14:14 left in the game. Clutch baskets by sophomore guard Marcus Bartley, sophomore guard Davell Roby, Yacoubou, and sophomore guard Milik Yarbrough cut the Billiken’s deficit to three with 4:50 left on the clock. That was the closest the Billikens would get to taking the lead, as Indiana State sealed their victory with an 8-0 run to defeat the Billikens 76-68. Roby scored a career-high 19 points in the loss.

SLU ended its six-game home schedule on Dec. 21 against Southern Illinois. Roby and junior guard Mike Crawford helped the Billikens to a 10-0 surge in the first half. The Billikens held onto a 33-31 lead at the break, but Southern Illinois quickly gained the advantage within the first five minutes of the second half and refused to relinquish it. Roby sank two free throws that helped the Billikens pull within four, 52-45, with 7:14 left in the game, but the Salukis responded with a 16-7 run to win 65-52. Freshman center Matt Neufeld posted a career-high four blocks in the 15 minutes that he was on the court.

The Billikens traveled to Kansas State on Dec. 29 for their nonconference finale. SLU started the game off with a 9-0 run and led 9-4 with 13:49 remaining. The Wildcats offense scored six points in the final minute-and-a-half to take a seven point lead at the break, 35-28. Kansas State carried their momentum into the second half with a 7-2 run. SLU cut the deficit to nine with 11:26 left on the clock, but the Wildcats answered with a bucket that pushed their lead to double digits, which they held for the rest of the game until their 75-47 victory. SLU shot 43.5 percent in the first half, but only 25 percent in the second.

SLU had their first A-10 matchup against Rhode Island on Jan 2. Rhode Island opened the game hitting four consecutive three-pointers, helping them to a 14-2 lead at the first media timeout. URI stretched their lead to 18-2 before the Billikens responded with an 8-0 run with 11:03 left in the half. The Rams had a double-digit lead heading into the half and continued to dominate the second half, eventually winning the game 85-57.

The Billikens hosted George Washington on Jan. 6. In an exhilarating game, George Washington led by eight with less than four minutes to go. Three Billikens scored from the free throw line – Agbeko (2-2), Yacoubou (1-2) and Roby (2-2) – and Crawford helped with a lay-in that resulted in SLU only being down by two with a minute remaining. On the next GW possession, Agbeko had a block and the Billiken defense forced a shot-clock violation. Mishandling by SLU resulted in a turnover on the in-bound pass. SLU quickly fouled, but GW choked at the line, missing both free throw opportunities, giving SLU the ball with 33 seconds left. Crawford drained a three on an assist from Roby. The Colonials traveled with 12 seconds remaining, giving SLU the ball back. GW fouled immediately, and Crawford hit two free throws with 10 seconds left in regulation. GW had the opportunity to tie the game with a three, but the ball was off its mark and SLU won 65-62. Crawford tied his career high of 20 points.

The Billikens hosted VCU on Jan. 10 for the annual blue out. VCU started the game with a dominating 13-0 run that ended with 13:21 left in the half. Yarbrough got the Billikens on the board with two free throws at the 11:53 mark. SLU scored five more points from the free throw line before they made their first field goal, which was a layup by Crawford with 6:22 left in the half.  Although the Billikens would only score one more field goal in the half, accuracy from behind the free throw line kept the halftime deficit to only four, 29-25.

The Bills continued the streak from the free throw line, but Reynolds opened the half hitting only the first of two, to make it 29-26. Gillmann scored an easy layup to cut the deficit to two, and Reynolds pulled SLU within one with 17:30 left in the game.  VCU responded with a three to give them a 34-30 lead with 17 minutes left in the game. VCU continued to dominate, putting together a 17-0 run and led by as many as 24 points. VCU defeated the Billikens 72-56. Reynolds was 11-of-13 from the line and finished with 17 points. He led the team with four assists.

SLU traveled to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne on Jan. 13. The Billikens trailed the Dukes 8-2 at the first media timeout. Duquesne  ruled the court on both ends and led SLU 38-13 at the end of the half. Although the Billikens scored an astounding 58 points in the second half, they ultimately couldn’t pull through, losing 81-71.

The Billikens will return home to play George Mason  on Jan. 17.