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Billiken Men Split East Coast Road Trip, Continue Unbeaten Streak at Home

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Billiken Men Split East Coast Road Trip, Continue Unbeaten Streak at Home

SLU Freshman Carte’Are Gordon has been an impact player for the Billikens in all of their games so far this season.

SLU Freshman Carte’Are Gordon has been an impact player for the Billikens in all of their games so far this season.

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Athletics

SLU Freshman Carte’Are Gordon has been an impact player for the Billikens in all of their games so far this season.

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Athletics

Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Athletics

SLU Freshman Carte’Are Gordon has been an impact player for the Billikens in all of their games so far this season.

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When the Billikens left St. Louis for their first road trip of the early season, they knew they would be facing their largest and first real challenge of the year. A road matchup at Seton Hall in Newark, New Jersey and a neutral site battle against the University of Pittsburgh at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn would give the Bills an opportunity to show who they are against potential NCAA Tournament teams.

The Billikens first true road game of the year came against the Seton Hall Pirates, a Big East Conference power who has been a staple in the NCAA Tournament as of late, having been a tournament team in the previous three years. The Billikens impressed early, jumping out to a 5-point halftime lead in Newark motivated by strong performances by Tremaine Isabelle Jr. and Javon Bess. The Billikens were able to open the lead to as large as 10 points late in the second half. However, a theme in the Billikens early season reared its head again as the Bills struggled to put the game away and allowed the Pirates to narrow the lead to 1 with only 11 seconds to play. The Bills were able to hit their free throws late and pulled out its first road win of the season and moved their unbeaten record to 4-0 beating the Seton Hall Pirates 66-64. Dion Wiley had his first stand out game of the season going 4-5 from the field and providing three clutch three pointers late in order to seal the win.

The Billikens then moved on to a neutral site location in order to take on the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. Brooklyn’s Barclay Center was the host for the bout between the two unbeaten squads. The game provided another opportunity for Head Coach Travis Ford’s team to gauge their ability against a major conference power. The game also provided the opportunity to get used to the Barclay Center, where the A-10 conference championships will be taking place in March, a tournament that Coach Ford no doubt has marked on his calendar.

Unfortunately, though, the Bills were unable to continue their early winning ways. The team was plagued by foul troubles early, an issue which forced Coach Ford further down his bench than he originally planned, as well as the absence of star guard Isabell, who did not play in the first half for ‘disciplinary reasons.” The Billikens fell to the Panthers by a score of 75-73. The Billikens had an opportunity to tie the game up late, however they were unable to seal the deal when they missed the necessary free throws. In a game filled with quirks and odd circumstances, guard Jordan Goodwin felt it was the team’s lack of physical play that put them in trouble. “They really punked us…it’s crazy I’m saying this about our team, but I think they out physicaled us tonight.”

The Billikens did not waste time returning to their winning ways though, when they returned to Chaifetz Arena for a battle against the Central Arkansas Bears. The Billikens continued to enjoy the home cooking, improving their home record to 4-0 with a 73-61 win. The win did not come easy though, as after an initial double-digit lead opened up for the Bills, the Bears held them and made SLU work for everything, cutting the lead and holding it to one possession for most of the second half.

Coach Ford describes his team as elite for 20-25 minutes of a game, and average for the other 15. A trait that is obvious by their ability to stop any offense and play the lock down defense this team was touted for early. They simply lack the ability to put away games, though with the Central Arkansas game as an example, the Billikens were able to go on a run in the right time and open the lead to double digits, just what they needed to get away from the pesky Bears. So the team may be developing and eliminating some of its flaws now six games in.

The Billikens will need all of their elite potential Saturday when the Butler Bulldogs come to St. Louis. Butler is a nationally recognized power program that rose to fame after back-to-back NCAA tournament finals in 2010 and 2011, and have since continued to be one of the strongest and most consistent mid-majors in the nation. The Bulldogs will be the toughest test so far for the Billikens and will be one of the more marquee matchups the Billikens face in the non-conference schedule. The KenPom national ranking lists Butler as the 27th best team in division one (compared to SLU’s current 84th) with the AP coaches and media poll agreeing, with Butler currently receiving votes in both polls.

Last season, a decimated Billikens lineup was blown out by the Butler Bulldogs when SLU visited Indianapolis to the tune of a 75-45 loss. This time around, the Billikens look to be far more themselves, as last year’s injuries and suspensions led to the Bills only having six scholarship athletes and eventually resorted to walk-ons to close the game out.

The Billikens welcome the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday, Dec. 1, for a 4 p.m. tip off at Chaifetz Arena.

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Billiken Men Split East Coast Road Trip, Continue Unbeaten Streak at Home