Saint Louis took care of business and beat the lowly George Washington Colonials in quick and assured fashion. While the scoreboard ended up reading 80-67, the win was more persuasive and significant that meets the eye.

Here are my 10 takeaways from the Billikens win Wednesday night.

One – Yuri Collins cements his legacy.

Yuri Collins set the record for most assists as a Billiken all-time and did so in half the time the previous record holder took to reach the mark. He will in all likelihood go on to potentially double the record considering he mentioned his plans for two more years at SLU after this one, but more importantly, it means that Yuri Collins is an all-time great Billikens, and nothing can change that. His legacy as one of the greatest to lace it up is undeniable. And that should be celebrated.

A toast to Yuri and many more dimes to come.

Two – Francis Figuring It Out

The biggest talking point on Francis Okoro early was just how good he was…but that he couldn’t finish around the rim. Well don’t look now but he’s increased his finishing rate at the rim significantly and is now putting up major scoring numbers for this team. He was 7-9 at the rim on route to a 22-point night. He’s increased his overall field goal rate by four percentage points on way higher volume over the last five games.

There are going to be a lot of nights like this game where Francis is the clear top big man on the floor and now, he’s starting to show just how dominant he can be.

Three – Gibson Is “That Guy”

Averaging 23.5 points per game and doing so on a jaw dropping 67% effective field goal percentage, Gibson is proving game over game that he is this good of a scorer and can do so against a variety of opponents.

Most impressively he’s forcing defenses to choose how to defend him, and then does the other thing to beat them. Don’t want him to back cut or be able to curl off screens? Ok then give him space and he will pull the trigger from deep, or make you fly by take a sidestep and nail that. Or play him uptight and he will blow past you.

Variety is the spice of life…and Gibson has been SPICY as of late. Even if he doesn’t keep this particular rate, it’s going to draw attention and allow others to fill in the cracks of that drawn attention…and that’s excellent.

Four – Defense Deserves a Conversation

I was told the highlighted content in practice leading up to this game was returning to fundamentals and playing team-oriented defense. Knowing this, I think they were successful in building on that and getting to the right solution.

The Billikens forced the Colonials to take shots that SLU was comfortable with way more often than they normally would and put pressure on just about every shot GW took.

For example, this graph:

This is the GW Shot Chart.

The Billikens forced 13 shots from the non-paint midrange and every one of the three-point attempts to come from above the break. GW made some shots, but on a quarter of their attempts they were forced to take an extremely inefficient shot, i.e. contested long twos. That’s a largely effective behavior over time for the Billiken defense.

Five – Fred Thatch Solves Problems

A lot of this is because Fred Thatch was a hound on George Washington’s top scorer James Bishop. On top of the counting stats of 3 blocks, a steal, and a team high plus 20, Fred locked down the opponent’s top defender.

The top three most effective lineups tonight in terms of point difference included Fred, the only other constant in those lineups was Yuri. Thatch only allowed Bishop to go 2-9 from the field on attempts guarded by Fred, meaning he went 7-10 against everyone else.

Fred can be a problem solver. He solved the problem tonight and is possibly the most important player on this team because of it.

Six – Shot Selection was pristine

The alternative to the graph I showed above is this graph:

This is gorgeous. Its near perfection. Five non paint shots and everything else either at the rim or from deep and even then from the short corners. Three of those non-paint looks are either an end of half prayer from DeAndre, or on the block attempts from Fred and Francis.

The other two are jumpers from Jimerson…which, I’m cool with.

The Bills took highly efficient shots and got to successful places on the floor all evening. If this is repeatable the Billikens offense will only achieve higher.

Seven – Passing Shows the Way Forward

Yuri Collins passing ability goes without saying, but the renaissance of Saint Louis’ offense is when Jordan Nesbitt comes as a lethal playmaker and Francis Okoro takes the next step as a paint passer to the perimeter.

Jordan showed flashes of just how amazing a play maker he can be tonight, with some very slick passes to Marten Linssen and Gibson Jimerson. And Francis showed some of that passing growth out of the elbow in the high screen and roll.

It’s coming along, need to build on it though.

Eight – Linssen can take his time coming back

Given how good Okoro and Traore have been in the paint, you can allow Marten time to get back into the swing of things. At a distance it appears that Linssen is still recovering from his ankle injury, he’s a step behind and isn’t as assertive as he was preinjury.

Letting Francis take the reins is perfectly fine and if it gives Lassina time to grow as well then that’s a bonus. But he should be building for that Dayton game February 5th. They are going to need him and building to a goal is important.

Take your time big man, but you’re needed soon.

Nine – New Starting Lineup

Travis Ford has now gone to a starting group of Yuri, Gibson, Fred, Jordan, and Francis for the second straight game. This is only notable because Travis, while often switching up rotations, has rarely changed his starting group once he has a solid hold on it. This is the same coach who started Jimmy Bell Jr over Javonte Perkins for a whole season.

This group played 16 minutes together tonight with nothing else coming remotely close. It’s hard to tell what the true rotation looks like until they play a full game without starters playing in the final six minutes.

Ten – Lassina wanted to do that dance so bad

Lassina Traore had another open look dunk in the final moments of the game and so wanted to do his “Rockstar” dance like the one he did against UMass three nights prior.

https://twitter.com/AlbertJacobU/status/1485785175250329602?s=20

 

That dance got him a technical and a stern talking to from Travis Ford and it’s hilarious that he physically had to fight himself from doing the exact same thing.

The Billikens won, its ok to be happy.

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!