It is tough going on the road and winning in the A10. It’s harder to win by 30. But that was the path the Billikens were on until Travis Ford called off the dogs and settled for a 77-53 win over Duquesne. The first away win over the Dukes in non-tournament play since the 2014 season.
They took care of business against a team in the lower third of the conference and keep building towards contesting against the league’s top talent.
Here are my 10 takeaways from the Billikens win on Saturday.
One – Team Effort
The win was a byproduct of getting contributions from everyone. This wasn’t a case of Gibson going off for 30, or any one particular spectacular output. Everyone had their hands in this game. Showing yet another way the Billikens can find ways to win games.
It’s nice to know this team doesn’t have to rest on someone going off on the score sheet to win…and win big.
Two – Francis Takes Off
That being said, Francis had his best game in a Billiken uniform. 14 points on just 18 minutes played and 7 of 9 shooting, Okoro was unstoppable.
Taking advantage of the weaker interior that Duquesne brought, the Billikens fed Francis and he delivered. He’s also had a limiting effect on the defensive end, essentially locking down the paint in the Billikens favor. His matchups have only scored a TOTAL of 17 points in the last two games, and that doesn’t factor in possessions where he’s not on the floor or not the primary defender.
If he’s able to compete at this level against tougher bigs, or at worst become a neutralizing factor in the Billikens favor against Center favoring offenses, the Billikens become very hard to beat.
Three – Attitude
The rationale for moving Fred Thatch Jr to the starting lineup is starting to actualize. Post-game, Fred spoke on his role as a defensive stopper. To be a physical presence who sets the tone for the entire game from the jump.
It feels as though Fred’s ability to impact the game without having to be focused on more suits the start of games rather than being brought in as a sub. Setting the tone on the offensive glass and defensive point of attack is valuable, but he also understands his role as being central to getting others into the flow.
Fred’s attitude defines success for SLU, seeing it more often is a good thing.
Four – Forcing Tough Shots
Another game, another solid effort in SLU forcing opponents into taking more low efficiency shots.
33% of all field goal attempts taken by Duquesne today were either from the midrange (aka long 2’s) or three-pointers from NBA range or beyond. That doesn’t factor in other heavily contested shots.
On SLU’s three game win streak, they’ve been far more successful in defending as a team. This is one outcome to track of that success.
Five – Rashad Lineups Work
Statistically, Rashad Williams didn’t offer a ton. He made a pair of threes (which was nice) but beyond that his stat sheet is a little empty. BUT…the two most successful lineup groups in this win both included Rashad Williams.
Lineups with Rashad in them were +21, all other lineups combinations equaled a +20.
The immediate thing to look for is the increased floor spacing a shooting threat like Williams brings. But it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Are they on to something or is it an anomaly? Let’s check back in on that.
Six – Bringing the Energy
A large part of this win came from the energy and intensity after halftime. Solid rebounding, strong finishing, and swarming defense put the Billikens on a 10-2 run to open the half, and they never looked back.
Let’s look to replicate that in the future.
Seven – Team Turnovers (or lack thereof) are helping
Part of the offenses strong play of late has been its ability to hold onto the ball. 10 turnovers as a team are in the ballpark of acceptable all things considered. The largest difference has been everyone not named Yuri Collins ability to limit giving away possessions.
You obviously want the number of turnovers to be zero but for Yuri, given how often he has the ball you’re accepting of some issues there. But everyone else having a combined 5 this game means you aren’t turning over the ball in areas where you really wish the ball wasn’t to begin with.
Part of this has been more cohesion in the half court, but it’s also a matter of being better and keeping the ball swinging and not allowing it to stick in anyone’s hands. The wings have kept the ball moving so no trap can come, and the bigs make their move faster or bail the ball back out.
There are improvements to be had of course. But the Billikens aren’t getting caught in needless traps nearly as often.
Eight – Less can, sometimes, be more
There are some players on this team who can be impactful for 40 minutes. They generally show the same outputs and don’t waiver. But those players are limited, and certainly aren’t that way on a every night basis.
Others need to be shot out of a cannon for a limited time. Jordan Nesbitt is going to be a player in category one eventually, but right now it seems he is in category two.
In back-to-back games we’ve seen Jordan play his best when fired out of a cannon on more limited minutes. He’s able to bring that extreme energy and talent in small doses and is able to impact the game more dramatically.
It’s not as if he’s a net negative in more extended situations, but it feels as though he’s at his most impactful at this moment in those short bursts.
Nine – Fresh Legs
Speaking of which…there is an extended stretch of games coming where the core seven players are going to be playing very heavy minutes. George Mason, Dayton, St. Bonaventure twice, Davidson (and LaSalle mixed in twice). It has been nice that Travis Ford has been able to pull the starters earlier and earlier to not only get time for the bench players to find their flow, but to rest and refresh the legs of that core.
Ten – Terrence will find the distance
There is no one struggling more than Terrence Hargrove Jr right now. After being lights-out from the three-point line, he is now just 2-13 in the last ten games and has missed 10 straight attempts. The worst part is it feels like the ball is just refusing to go in. Rimming out, bouncing on the rim. Bad luck.
Terrence is taking good shots that just aren’t falling. He should keep taking them. It will come back, and when it does the Billikens will need his added might. Until they start falling, he needs to find a way to be impactful without the shooting, get his mind off things. It’ll fall.
Carter Chapley has burst onto the scene becoming one of the most trusted voices in Billikens Athletics and beyond for Scoops with Danny Mac.
Starting at the University News, Carter joined Scoops in 2019 and has provided coverage primarily on Saint Louis University Athletics, including Basketball, Soccer, and Baseball. He has also written on such major events as the NCAA Tournament, Arch Madness, the NHL All-Star Game, the founding of STL City FC, and the NCAA reaction to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
You can find Carter more on Twitter at @ChapleyMedia where he will always be talking Billikens, Sports, and More!