Game #9-490: Charlotte 49ers vs. Saint Louis BillikensMarch 15, 2013 12:00 pm
Saint Louis University has been the class of the Atlantic-10 Conference this season. They have ridiculous balance and good depth, so while no particular individual may scare you significantly coming into a game, they have six or seven guys who are more than capable of being the star on any given night. Combine that with a tough, relentless defense, and it's easy to see why they are the league's most complete team. Much has been written about the passing of Rick Majerus and the ascension of Jim Crews into the head coaching position, and that's a story that will continue to be told as this team progresses through both the A-10 and NCAA tournaments. The story is a good one, highlighting how a group of kids stuck together through a confusing and painful situation in which their coach was taking a leave of absence, then was not going to return to coaching, then passed away. I suspect they recognized that Majerus' health situation was dire long before we knew it, but that doesn't make it any easier to handle. Into this void stepped Crews, who had become a pariah of sorts after being fired at Army, under unclear circumstances that were less than flattering. I don't think any of us will know, but it seems possible that Majerus hand-picked Crews for this exact role, and he has filled that role magnificently. He was the obvious choice of A-10 Coach of the Year. As I watched him coach this game from across the arena, I couldn't help but reflect back on the 1973 Indiana team, the first team I really loved; that team's sixth man was freshman Jimmy Crews, which reminds me that I've been following college basketball for quite a long time.
The Billikens squared off in the quarterfinal opener against Charlotte, the winner in the controversial finish over Richmond in this tournament's opening round. Like a good champion will do, Saint Louis came out aggressively. A Kwamain Mitchell steal led to a Dwayne Evans old-fashioned three-point play, and a Grandy Glaze steal led to a Rob Loe layup. Boom! Boom! 5-0 SLU. When your team has to burn its first timeout within the first minute of the game, you might be in for a long day!
To their credit, Charlotte responded very well to that the initial minute knockdown. The team that couldn't shoot straight the day before made back-to-back three-pointers (first Ivan Benkovic, then Chris Braswell), which cut the SLU lead to 19-16. Just when you could sense Charlotte taking a sigh of relief that they'd withstood a Saint Louis run, they found themselves in real trouble.
Mike McCall Jr. hit a three-pointer, then McCall hit a short jump shot after a 49er turnover. After a pair of missed three-pointers by Charlotte (which, in retrospect, were probably not the shots they wanted), Mitchell knocked down a three-pointer. McCall then came up with a steal, which he immediately converted into a layup. After a Cody Ellis steal, McCall misfired on a three-pointer, but got his own rebound, and kicked it out to Loe for a successful superhoop. In a span of just under two minutes, the Billikens had a 13-0 run that essentially ended this game well before halftime.
While he wasn't terribly prominent in that clinching 13-0 run, Dwayne Evans had a magnificent game for Saint Louis. He scored seven of their first nine points, and carried them for portions of the second half. He ended the game with 25 points (8-9 FG, 9-9 FT) and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes. That's quite an efficient performance! I would say that you wouldn't have recognized his contributions if you weren't watching the game closely, but I was watching the game closely (I thought), and was amazed with his final stats. It didn't help that the Barclays Center scoreboard was malfunctioning and didn't show any individual stats throughout the game, but the main team stat was still provided on the scoreboard, and it was largely because of Evans that Saint Louis maintained a significant lead throughout the contest.
Late in the game, with Charlotte trailing by 18, Pierria Henry (who had an individual free throw shooting drill to close out their win over Richmond) ran into a pick by SLU's solidly-built Jordair Jett, an experience which must be akin to running into a brick wall. Henry got the wind knocked out of him (at best), and was eventually taken to the hospital due to ongoing breathing difficulties. The officials reviewed the monitor for several minutes before determining that Jett's contact was not flagrant, and here notified the coaches of their decision.
Therefore, any hopes that Charlotte might have had about Crews and Saint Louis unraveling and picking up a series of technical fouls were dashed, and the Billikens continued to cruise to an easy victory. Ideally for tournament time, they got this win with only Mitchell playing more than 30 minutes. If they get to the third game in three days in the championship, that might pay an extra dividend.
Saint Louis can be beaten in this tournament, but it will take a very good effort from a good opponent to pull off the accomplishment. I'd go so far as to say the same thing about the upcoming NCAA tournament. At this time of year, Saint Louis is what is known as a "Tough Out."
SAINT LOUIS 72, CHARLOTTE 55
CHARLOTTE 21-11 (8-8) -- P. Henry 3-9 1-3 7; D. Ingram 0-4 0-0 0; C. Braswell 6-10 6-8 20; E. Nickerson 1-5 3-4 5; W. Clayton 3-4 2-7 8; T. Williams 2-8 0-0 4; I. Benkovic 2-6 0-0 6; D. Clark 1-2 0-0 2; C. Lewis 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 19-49 12-22 55.
SAINT LOUIS 25-6 (13-3) -- D. Evans 8-9 9-9 25; C. Ellis 3-13 6-6 13; R. Loe 3-7 0-2 7; M. McCall Jr. 3-8 2-2 9; C. Remekun 1-3 1-2 3; J. Jett 0-3 0-0 0; J. Barnett 1-3 1-2 4; G. Glaze 1-4 0-0 2; S. Duff 0-0 0-0 0; J. LePak 0-0 2-2 2; J. Manning 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 20-50 21-27 65.
Three-point goals: CHAR 5-14 (C. Lewis 1-1; C. Braswell 2-3; E. Nickerson 0-2; T. Williams 0-2; I. Benkovic 2-4; D. Ingram 0-2), SLU 4-19 (K. Mitchell 1-4; C. Ellis 1-7; J. Barnett 1-3; R. Loe 1-3; M. McCall 1-6); Rebounds: CHAR 35 (C. Braswell 10), SLU 30 (D. Evans 9); Assists: CHAR 14 (D. Ingram 6), SLU 11 (K. Mitchell 4); Total Fouls -- CHAR 24, SLU 16; Fouled Out: CHAR-W. Clayton; SLU-None.