Saint Louis took care of Business on the road in a building that historically has given them fits. But not this time. SLU came out with one of the more complete team efforts we’ve seen in recent history and dominated from start to finish.

As the Billikens build towards an NCAA tournament appearance, getting wins like these are vital. More importantly not losing them is almost more key. Billiken teams of old have stumbled in moments like these, but this group has found something special and continued their now six-game winning streak.

Here are 10 Takeaways from the Billikens 75-57 win over La Salle.

One – Fred Loves Gola Arena

While Fred insists that there’s nothing particularly special about the arena, Thatch has been excellent in his appearances in the arena. He got his first career double-double in this year’s trip to Tom Gola Arena. La Salle had no answer for his strength, quickness, and tenacity. He got to the rim with ease as a scorer and a rebounder.

Thatch is the glue of the team. He does all the little things and adds a dynamic edge.

Two – Two-Headed Dragon

It was Francis Okoro’s turn to be the star in the post after Marten Linssen dominated against Dayton. Okoro’s length and touch were unstoppable as he gave the Billikens 19 points on 87% shooting. While there was some foul trouble, Francis was a force whenever he was on the floor.

Three – Need Energy

The Billikens had slow starts to both halves. It took them almost three minutes to score their first point and 3:45 to get their first field goal. They scored 6 points in the first 5 minutes in the second half.

These issues were resolved, but the gaps of time where scoring becomes an issue is the larger concern.

SLU players have indicated that they have difficulties when the arena doesn’t have any energy. They prefer to have negative energy from the crowd rather than none. While it seems they’ve learned how to manufacture some energy of their own over time, they need to find a way to open better when it’s just not there.

It’s an interesting phenomenon. Not one they may encounter again. But interesting.

Four – Buy-In

What is most apparent about this win and the string of success the Billikens find themselves on is that it does not feel reliant on any single player playing above their head. Saint Louis has an identity and understands what they need to win games.
SLU is playing more in control and according to plan than they had this season. They don’t waste offensive possessions and rarely allow easy looks on defense. The Billikens have bought in since losing to UMass.

Five – Role Playing

Part of that Buy-In is expert role-playing by everyone on the team. Players are playing their part to a tee, no matter how large or small. DeAndre Jones, for example, deserves a ton of credit for being a calming figure as a second point guard on the floor with Yuri, especially when the Billikens are facing a press or in late-game situations when they’re trying to run the clock out.

Terrence Hargrove has come in as a menacing bench threat who can score on multiple levels while not needing plays specifically called for him. Lassina Traore provides solid defective possessions to end halves while growing on the offensive end.

Everyone is contributing and understands how they can best help the team.

Six – On-Court Coach

On further re-watches of Yuri Collins’ game, it cannot be understated how valuable he is not only as an offensive floor general but as a director of play on both ends. With 15:47 to play in the second and the SLU offense struggling with the Explorers surging, Yuri Collins redirected play in the transition defense to make sure everyone was aligned to protect a fast break. He sent Jordan Nesbitt to follow the ball handler, who had a size advantage over him, to protect the paint while streaking out to the wing to guard the man open in the corner.

Of Course, Nesbitt’s D forced a kick out to that corner, who was now completely covered before the ball even got to him. Stopping the fast break and ultimately halting the possession.

Collins’ value as a basketball player is hard to measure, considering all he does.

Seven – Confidence

We are starting to see some guys get their swagger back while others seem to be losing it. Terrence Hargrove has found his stroke from deep and is beginning to show again how dangerous he can be on the floor…and playing like it on both ends. Meanwhile, it seems like Gibson Jimerson has lost some of that edge, specifically on shots inside the arc.

Much like Terrence shooting his way out of the funk, I hope Gibson does the same. He’s talented enough and showed us a sample of success to prove this is just a funk (It doesn’t hurt that Gibson doesn’t get calls anymore).

It’s way easier to gain confidence when you’re winning, so if they keep doing that, I don’t expect Gibson to be struggling for long.

Eight – Out-Performing Expectations

The Analytics on this game had the Billikens as a 10-point favorite. Vegas had an 8 point line. They were expected to score 74 and give up 64.

Given how beating La Salle doesn’t do much for you in the NCAA tournament resume-building quest, it’s important to improve your metrics however possible. That includes scoring more than expected, allowing fewer points than expected, and winning by a wider margin than expected.

Saint Louis did all of that, making this win even more valuable.

Nine – Executing a Game Plan

Fred Thatch highlighted post-game that SLU noted how the Explorers guarded ball screens, curls, and switches and highlighted that because they don’t switch often, SLU felt they could get to the rim more often. Then use moves like jump-stops to get around defenders or force fouls.

It’s interesting to see this Billiken team be so dynamic that they can adjust their offensive goals to whatever comes their way. It shows an underrealized aspect of the things Travis Ford and Co do.

Ten – Foul Trouble

It’s a new phenomenon, one that reportedly takes up a significant amount of thought in coaches’ meetings, is that Marten Linssen and Francis Okoro are finding themselves in more and more foul trouble every game. While Lassina Traore has been a surprising benefit and helped largely…him playing extended minutes (especially in crunch time) is not ideal.

It’s a trend to track, but not to worry about yet.

Carter Chapley
Carter Chapley

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!