By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
The 13-point differential of the final score in Wednesday’s Saint Louis University-Saint Joseph’s matchup is a tad misleading as to how the game actually occurred.
While the game was truly never in doubt past the first few moments of the first half, the Billikens had the opportunity to snuff out any signs of hope early but failed to do so.
With seven minutes remaining in the first half, and an 11-point lead, the Bills had their chance to put it away early. Coming off a Hawks timeout with all the momentum going their way, the Billikens failed to capitalize on extending their lead and allowed St. Joes to outscore them by five going into the half time. It wasn’t until late in the second when the Bills were finally able to pull away and formally solidify their win. They allowed the Hawks to stick around, albeit at a distance, for the majority of the second half.
The Bills have had trouble dominating ending portions of halves and have allowed weaker teams to stick around with them in games. The Hawks were seeking just their second conference win of the season and their sixth win all year, and despite not really every being realistically close to achieving that goal, it at times got a little too close for comfort.
It is a positive step to show that they have not allowed those more mediocre teams to ultimately get back in games. But when faced with the opportunity to bury teams, the Billikens still miss the mark.
The most positive take away from the Wednesday night showdown was that despite small slips, Travis Ford felt his team gave a full 40-minute effort. That is not always a given with this group, who have been prone to prolonged laps in intensity in games, but they have put together a string of performances that are more towards Travis Fords liking.
“I thought we missed a lot of easy shots early, but we got the shots we wanted. I thought we defended for 40 minutes.” Ford said, “In some ways I thought we played consistently better than we might have the other night from beginning to end.”
In the end, though, the Billikens got their 20th win of the season. A milestone to be celebrated. It is their seventh 20-win season since joining the A-10 but just their third time achieving the benchmark since the 1994-1995 season and the fifth time in school history overall. The sustained success is one to be celebrated and shows developing promise for the future success of the program.
Javonte Perkins continues to roll
After scoring just three points in the first half for the Billikens, Javonte Perkins seemed to have finally cooled off from his torrent pace. But when the break ended and Javonte started the second half, he heated back up.
Perkins played all twenty minutes of the second half, scoring 18 points on 6-7 shooting. The 21 points total helps add to his average of 18 points per game in Atlantic 10 play, the most by a Billiken in school history.
Terrence Hargrove starting to breakout
After starting the year with an undefined role, Terrence Hargrove has grown into being a significant role player for the Billikens. Playing a very efficient 19 minutes, getting 13 points on 6-9 shooting including a three, four rebounds, and three blocks, Terrence has become a central player to Travis Ford’s rotation.
The central attribute of improvement from the East St. Louis native has been his ability to operate as a defensive factor in both the man and zone defenses. The once liability spent time guarding the Hawks top offensive threat in Ryan Daly (who scored 35 on the Billikens last time they met) and helped in the collective effort to completely shut him down.
When joined by team captain Jordan Goodwin post-game, Terrence made it clear stopping Daly was a central focus for the team. “He wasn’t scoring 35,” Hargrove said. “That wasn’t happening. He affected us bad last game. We told ourselves he wasn’t coming in and scoring 35 in front of our fans. If I was guarding him, I was making sure of that.”
Billikens hit the road
Saint Louis will play the next two games on the road before returning to Chaifetz Arena for the final game of the season. They will first travel to Kingston to take on the Rhode Island Rams. The matchup against the #2 team in the A-10 serves as an important crossroads in the Billikens season. A win Sunday helps the Bills move forward with the possibility of the four seed and the double-bye in-tact.
While also very unlikely, adding another win against a likely tournament team would also serve them well for a potential back-door NCAA tournament bid. It would, though, definitely add to the resume for a possible NIT home game in the event of not making the Big Dance.