Billiken blizzard: SLU Basketball Defeats Dayton


Photo Courtesy of Billiken Athletics

If you ask Google who SLU’s rival is, you’ll find a message board from 2012 telling you that it is Dayton. I didn’t take it seriously, but as it turns out, I was wrong. January’s game against Dayton was a big deal for the St. Louis and SLU community. SLU entered the matchup on a five game win streak that Dayton was looking to snap. SLU came into the game with a 15-6 record and Dayton entered the game with a record of 15-7. This game was the fight for second place in the A-10 tournament. What was even crazier was this was the third straight Dayton v. SLU game in St. Louis where it has snowed a couple of days before, nicknaming this game the “Billiken Blizzard.” 

          This series does bring back some bad memories, because in the 2020 game when Dayton was ranked thirteen and had future eighth pick Obi Topin, the game went to overtime and SLU lost to a buzzer-beater. That was a tough loss for a lot of people—even Coach Ford said it was one of the toughest losses as the Billiken coach. Two years later, SLU still has Yuri Collins, who made a clutch free throw with six seconds left in that game. Collins now leads the team, and SLU’s s Terrance Hargrove and Fred Thatch, Jr. also have experience against Dayton. This game wasn’t a nail-biter, but it sure felt like it, with SLU making a 6 point lead into a 10 point lead throughout the second half. Every time SLU went on a run, Dayton answered, with Dayton showing a fast-paced offense and strong defense. Collins was able to get six assists and eight rebounds. 

       Ford also switched back and forth from Okoro to Linssen, with Linssen only getting 20 minutes, though he was the leading scorer for the Bills with a solid 17 points. You could also tell this game was a rivalry by Collins yelling at a Dayton player at the end of the game. 

Also, something interesting in the game was Jordair Jett—who just was inducted to the Billiken Hall of Fame—was talking to the Dayton coach and got ejected from the game. After holding onto the ball after a Nesbitt dunk in order to take time off the clock for Dayton and fluster the Flyers, the Dayton coach and Jett exchanged words. After the exchange, Jett was escorted out of Chaifetz Arena, much to the dismay of fans. 

       The game ended well with SLU winning 72-61. One of the main things I was worried about when I was watching the game was that SLU would get the lead and Dayton would come back with a 6-0 run. Multiple times I thought SLU would blow a lead. In at least three of SLU’s losses, SLU blew a lead after being up at least 10 points, just as they did with the number one team in the country, Auburn. With five minutes left in that game, SLU was leading by 11 points and the downfall of their near win was the defense. SLU’s defensive end has been struggling for a while now. Though Thatch came in, some moments in the second half showed that he still has the best defense on the SLU team. If we could have Thatch come in these clutch moments with more offense, it might have changed the outcome of previous games. 

       SLU also played at La Salle Tuesday and beat them 75-57. This Dayton game showed that SLU does have a chance to win the A-10 tournament again. For fans watching at the beginning of conference play, it wasn’t looking good after losses to Dayton and UMass. Losing to Belmont and the University of Alabama at Birmingham back-to-back at home was a tough stint for the Billikens to end 2021.

       The Bills came up big with a win over coach Ford’s former coach, Rick Pinto’s Iona. That confidence helped the Bills escape a double OT against George Mason. The tail end of the season is fast approaching with back to back games coming with St. Bonaventure, La Salle, then Davidson (as the number 1 seed in the A-10). If SLU can win out, their chances of winning the A-10 would increase. The season has been a roller coaster, but the Billikens have consistently proven they can win when it matters.