Half-Court Defense has been a calling card of Travis Ford’s Billikens since he arrived at SLU in 2017. While the outcomes haven’t always been rich, the team always led with defensive efficiency over offensive prowess. Even dating back to his time at Oklahoma State, Travis Ford teams have succeeded in winning games by limiting opponents the opportunity to score a lot of points.
The Billikens had their first signature win two weeks over LSU by doing just so. In tandem with some clutch scoring, the Billikens limited the Tigers’ high octane scoring to just 28 points in the first half. There are very few better offenses in the NCAA who are as talented and efficient as LSU. Still, Saint Louis limited the opportunities available to the opponent and came out with the win.
Ranking 5th in the nation in steals per possession, getting a steal every 15.6 possessions they defend, the Billikens have found their mode of operation this season. Led by Jordan Goodwin and Yuri Collins, who leads the team in steals with 12 and 9 respectively, the Billikens have been pressing their opponents hard in the full and half-court, forcing opposing ball handlers to make poor decisions and giving SLU’s guards full opportune to cause chaos.
There is a clear style change that the Billikens are looking to implement this season. There has never been quite a priority in forcing turnovers like there is this year. In years past, the Bills had created defense by forcing teams off the three-point-line and into their tough as nail paint defense. Hasahn French’s SLU record of 205 blocks (and counting) is a testament to this paradigm.
After a season-high 16 steals in last week’s win over the Central Arkansas Bears, Travis Ford spoke to the new mindset.
“We want to be aggressive defensively that is no question, we want to disrupt the other team… that’s what we call making a play. There’s about four ways you can make a play on defense, and that’s deflections, steals, charges, blocks, and (the players) are constantly hearing us say ‘Make a play! Make a play!’ We want to get so many deflections, and so many steals. That’s when we went on runs, when our defense created our offence and that’s something that we need to be part of our identity.”
Travis Ford’s words help put into context just how important the Billikens style of play is to their long-term success. If they can “make plays” at a high pace and continue to make easy offensive opportunities due to their defense, they will be able to play a far more consistent brand of winning basketball.
This, though, is the first year where Travis Ford truly has the luxury to play this aggressive style of play. With the depth the Billikens have at every position on the floor, there is little to no risk of losing key players due to foul trouble. While Jordan Goodwin has always been a tad reckless in terms of timing his moment to be aggressive, now instead of having to do so with four fouls, they can spread that foul trouble out more evenly with other wings like Demarius Jacobs, Fred Thatch, and Terrence Hargrove able to step in and spell his minutes in the earlier parts of games.
SLU has played one strong game against LSU and some lower-tier games to this point in the season. While their stats may be inflated and will come back to earth, the games showed us that the team’s intention is clear; no matter who the opponent, the Billikens will be aggressive and try to disrupt you in the most emphatic ways possible.
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!