By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
At the interview desk after getting blown out by 14 points, Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French sat looking more vulnerable than they have ever been in my short time covering this team. Even after losing four straight games last season with one of those loses being directly at the hands of Jordan Goodwin, neither of these players had ever been as down as they were last night.
“It’s unacceptable really. It really is unacceptable. We know what we can do defensively. It’s absolutely unacceptable” French said about the performance as a whole.
Jordan adding “I just told the guys in the locker room…I know one thing about the guys that we had in the locker room last year was that this kinda thing would never happen. That’s not the way you lose in Chaifetz.”
“Not only did I let my teammates down, I let the city of St. Louis down, and I let everyone in Chaifetz Arena down. That’s the worst I’ve ever lost in this building. It’s not acceptable.”
On the whole the loss at the hands of the Duquesne Dukes was very much like all the losses they’ve had this season. They play poorly in the first half, allowing their opponent to create a lead going into the halftime break, come out from the break with energy, cut the lead down to a score or two, but then ultimately never break through and take the game back.
The Billikens were outgunned in every way by the Dukes and it never really felt like they had anything going positively for them. Travis Ford made the distinction in his post-game remarks that he felt his team was always putting in the effort but did not have the competitive fire they need to win games. “Everyone tries hard, everyone put in effort, but some nights we just don’t compete hard.”
The loss snaps a three-game win streak, but the Billikens feel like they haven’t played good basketball since at the very least the loss to Dayton. They played poor defense and subpar offense relying simply on being more talented to squeak out wins against teams at the bottom tier of the conference.
“I was glad we won those two games on the road, but we didn’t play particularly well.” Travis Ford said, “I said it, it’s good to get wins. But it’s a false sense of security. Right now, we’re wounded. They took a chunk out of us. And it doesn’t get any easier.”
The Billikens simply did not perform against Duquesne and allowed themselves to get bullied all night long. It was clear early in the night that the Bills did not have that edge that they usually carry with them. Every 50/50 ball went Duquesne’s way, they made mental mistakes that they don’t ‘usually’ make and they simply did not carry themselves the way they normally do.
The Billikens need to find answers quick. They are a talented team, but Travis Ford is right, it doesn’t get any easier from here. They need to find a way to battle through their inability to shoot the ball consistently and find their defensive edge. Something that was supposed to be their calling card has turned into their biggest question mark.
The captains of the team feel the answers are for the players to find. Jordan Goodwin said, “I know he’s stressing right now, but it’s not on Coach Ford right now. The answers in the locker room. It starts with me and goes all the way on down.”
The key topics the pair of captains who answer for the team identified as potential remedies revolve around facing group accountability and not settling for mediocrity.
“We gotta stop sitting around and saying ‘nah we good, ‘nah we good when we’re not. Get that 17 and whatever out of heads and go at it like we’re 0-0.” Said Goodwin about leaving their record behind and continuing to work hard. “We gotta go head hunting now. We just letting every be so cool and relaxed cause we got 17 wins. ‘wow we got 17 wins, wow Billikens 17 wins.” With Hasahn French chiming in to say, “We haven’t done anything yet.”
It’s clear the leadership of this team has received a wake-up call in the worst way, and they will need to rally their group and change the collective culture of how they approach the game in order to right the ship. The pair quickly dismissed the idea of this being a growing pain with a young team, each pointing out that this group has played in the toughest environment’s college basketball has to face. They are young but experienced.
The Billikens don’t have a lot of time to get a cultural change in place. The #6 team in the nation is waiting on the horizon and they surely must smell blood in the water. The Billikens have taken a significant blow and are laying out on the mat so to speak. Now is when we will see their true character. Will they get up and fight for their life’s? Go ‘headhunting’ as Goodwin puts it? Or will they fade away? The performance Saturday will tell the tale.
The approach for Saturday’s game in Dayton? TBD according to Travis Ford, leaving the press room with only a demoralize “Back to the drawing board.”