By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
The next four games the Billikens play, two on the road, two at home, will be against teams that they have already seen this season. The first two will be revenge games whereas the next pair will be against teams they’ve already beaten. It is not until VCU comes to Chaifetz Arena will the Billikens get a shot at fresh blood.
The start of all this comes with the Duquesne Dukes coming to Midtown tonight. After taking the Billikens down a peg in the season opener, the Bills have the opportunity to repay the favor and create some separation in the standings.
The Bills and Dukes are all part of a log jam in the A -10’s third-place position with a 6-3 record. The Bills are rolling on a three-game win streak whereas the Dukes have struggled of late after starting 5-0 in the conference are 1-3 in their last 4.
Before practice Tuesday there was an air of revenge floating around the hallways at Chaifetz Arena. The Bills know they dropped a bad game in their season opener and are looking to return the favor. Hasahn French said “We know how bad we want this game. We just have to prepare like it and show it. We played them the first game of the season and I feel like it was really fresh to us what kind of game conference was going to be like. But I think we’re prepared now and ready to go”.
The key for the Billikens for getting a win and extending their winning streak is to return to the defensive efforts they had in their wins earlier in the A-10 schedule. Duquesne is a team full of players who all have the ability to make offensive contributions. So, it will be vital that they eliminate some of the role players from having big nights. Guys like Sincere Carry and Marcus Weathers have the talent to get points every night no matter what, so it is imperative to limit the damage to just those guys.
It will be a new test for the Billikens as this is the first time they are seeing a team for the second time this season. On one hand they have been exposed to and had the full ability to study Keith Dambrot’s system of hook and flair screens. But it is also the first time a team will have had the ability to observe them and adapt.
Travis Ford has shown an aptitude for learning from past experiences and adapting those lessons leading to positive results. Last season the Billikens fared far better against opponents the second time they saw them, going 7-3 in games against teams they already saw once before that season. Hasahn French credits the careful eye of Coach Ford for why they have fared so well in those matchups. “That comes down to coach. His attention to detail is something that is amazing. It’s something that’s helped me. He pays attention to what helped us and what hurt us in those games. Since my freshman year he’s done that.”
The emergence of Javonte Perkins as a primary scorer is a difference the Bills will have on their side going into this game. The A-10 Co-player of the week has shown great improvement in his ability to put the ball in the hoop this season and is fulfilling the promise of his potential from the offseason. He has shown at every level he has been able to score effectively and now that he has both the experience and the reps at the Division One level, and in the A-10 Conference that his natural ability is peaking through. At Tuesday’s practice, Coach Ford highlighted the importance of his offensive game as a way to not only score for the team, but to create opportunities for the team. “Jordan and Hasahn are going to draw a lot of eyes on the court when they have the ball. It’s up to everybody to make sure everybody is contributing and helping each other out…it’s about helping our team out. Javonte’s done that.”
The Bills have another rematch just beyond the horizon as the #6 Dayton Flyers wait for them in Ohio, but the Bills have to take care of business and get a win first to continue their momentum forward. The wins in Philadelphia were nice, but it feels like from the general demeanor of the players they knew as well as anybody that they should have been more convincing. The Bills have a chance to play a more solid program and will be required to play to a higher standard in order to win
Will they rise to the occasion? They have shown a tendency to play to their opponents’ ability. Early in the year it seemed as if they overlooked Duquesne to a degree and played extremely poorly on the road. It sounds as if they learned their lesson and now know what it will take to put this team away.
If they did, it bodes well for the team moving forward. But their actions will ultimately speak far louder than their words.