Skip to content

Billikens’ journey to the Final Four begins with 17-point victory over Charlotte

Mar 15, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

Saint Louis Dwayne Evans AP

NEW YORK – March is the month where the elite teams identify themselves.

The top spot in the Atlantic-10 Conference changed hands numerous times this season, with VCU, Butler and even Charlotte atop the conference standings at one point.

But nobody remembers who No. 1 was in December. A team is judged based on what they do late in the season, when the games matter most.

But for the Saint Louis Billikens, all they have done since the games started to matter is win 14 of the past 17, with two losses coming in overtime.. The Billikens continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating Charlotte 72-55 in the Atlantic-10 Quarterfinals at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Saint Louis not only looked like the most complete team in the Atlantic-10, but also like a team that can compete for a spot in the Final Four.

That’s right. I said it.

This team has experience, cohesion, confidence and talent.

Saint Louis’ greatest strength is roster depth.. The late Rick Majerus did a masterful job putting together a dynamic team with players who each bring a unique skill set to table. Enter Dwayne Evans, the Billikens’ multi-purpose who led the way with 25 points and 9 rebounds on Thursday afternoon in win over the 49ers.

Evans has been the team’s steadiest hand since the beginning of February, scoring in double figures in each of the last 14 games.

But Saint Louis isn’t a one man show. In fact, the Billikens’s top five scorers are separated by just 3.1ppg, six Billikens average 7.4ppg or more, and four Billikens average at least 10ppg. Saint Louis has sure-handed guards, efficient shooters, versatile big-men, and a strong supporting cast.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who are really good three‑point shooters,” said Evans following the quarterfinal win.

“You have to cover them and leave the inside open. So we kind of played in and out.”

On Friday against Charlotte, Saint Louis got a total team effort. Senior forward Cody Ellis scored 13 points to go along with Evans’ standout performance. They got steady play from forward Rob Loe, who finished with seven points, four rebounds, four assists and one block. Senior guard Kwamain Mitchell also added seven points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals. Both Loe and Mitchell had spot performances on Friday, but either one of them could easily take the lead next game. Coach Jim Crews echoed these sentiments following the win.

“I think we got the win kind of like we usually do. It comes from all kinds of different‑‑ I mean, we get a little from the defense, a little inside. We don’t shoot the ball that well from three. It seemed like we get threes at the right time, get to the line‑‑ I mean, we have a lot of different ways. I don’t know if we’re really, really good at any of them, but we’re good at a lot of them. The same thing with the players. They just‑‑ this guy, this game or next game or these three guys or those four guys. That’s kind of the beauty of our team.

That’s the beauty of this team. The Billikins don’t have to rely on one player. That stems from the team’s strong chemistry and experience. The Billikens embody the same characteristic that many of Rick Majerus’ famous Utah teams
from the mid-90s carried: integrity and a high level of character. The Billikens don’t get rattled easily.

“Teams are going to make runs on us all the time”, said guard Mike McCall Jr., who finished with nine points and four assists.

“We just need to go on to the next play and try to make a run ourselves.”

They are a top-50 team in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage. All eight of the Billikens’ primary players are upperclassmen. This is not a team filled with players that need the ball. This is not a team with fiery personalities, and Jim Crews likes that.

“I think we’ve got a bunch of guys that are leaders, but we don’t have one or two guys that kind of stand on top of the mountain top and say whatever needs to be said. We don’t have those type of personalities. So everything has kind of peaked with us. They don’t get real excited. They don’t get real down. They just kind of keep plugging away. That’s a great trait that they have.”

Are there more talented teams in the country than Saint Louis? Yes, there certainly are. But many of those “elite” teams don’t have the intangibles necessary to survive the long postseason trek.

Saint Louis does.

They have the proper personnel and all the tools necessary to make the steep climb to the top of the college hoops mountain.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Latest Posts
  1. Three-star 2015 forward cuts list to seven

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:29 PM EDT

    Area Codes Basketball Area Codes Basketball

    Three Mountain West programs and one Big Ten program among the schools on the Las Vegas native’s list.

  2. Western Kentucky junior guard Ayinde Sprewell’s highlight reel (VIDEO)

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Ray Harper Ray Harper

    The nephew of Latrell Sprewell will play his first season at WKU.

  3. Recruiting heavyweight jumps into mix for five-star 2015 point guard

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    ISAIAH BRISCOE,BRUNO SANSIMONI ISAIAH BRISCOE,BRUNO SANSIMONI

    The elite PG from New Jersey had his first in-person meeting with Kentucky head coach John Calipari on Thursday.

  4. In-state point guard becomes West Virginia’s second 2016 commitment

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    Bob Huggins AP

    The South Charleston HS floor general was one of the state’s best players last season, and he could prep for a year before joining the WVU program.

  5. High-scoring guard verbally commits to Stephen F. Austin

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    Brad Underwood Brad Underwood

    The son of a former national champion has made a name for himself by scoring 28 points per game as a junior.

  6. Mount St. Mary’s gives extension to head coach Jamion Christian

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

    jamion christian Getty Images

    Mount St. Mary’s rewarded head coach Jamion Christian with an extension.

  7. Gonzaga releases a loaded non-conference schedule

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Wichita State v Gonzaga Getty Images

    Gonzaga has one of its deepest teams of all time and the Bulldogs are challenging themselves with a difficult non-conference schedule.

  8. Bradley forward Auston Barnes charged with domestic battery following August arrest

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT

    Peoria County Sheriff's Office Peoria County Sheriff's Office

    Bradley forward Auston Barnes has been charged with misdemeanor domestic battery following an August arrest.

  9. Pittsburgh 2016 commit Maverick Rowan re-opens his recruitment

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Pitt and head coach Jamie Dixon no longer hold a commitment from a former 2016 recruit.

  10. Three-star center has four official visits set

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Under Armour Under Armour

    A three-star forward has four schools that are heavily involved.

  11. Mixtape of elite 2015 shooter Matt McQuaid (VIDEO)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Nike Nike

    Matt McQuaid can really light it up from the perimeter.

  12. Summer highlights for five-star center Stephen Zimmerman (VIDEO)

    Sep 19, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

    Nike EYBL Nike EYBL

    Stephen Zimmerman is ranked the No. 10 overall recruit by Rivals.

  13. Record number of tents camped out for Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness (VIDEO)

    Sep 19, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Via @_Shanabon Via @_Shanabon

    Kentucky fans camped out on Monday in order to officially camp out for tickets on Wednesday morning.

  14. Rhode Island big man returns to the floor for 2014-2015 season

    Sep 19, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Rhode Island v Butler Getty Images

    The Rhode Island forward is eligible after missing the 2013-2014 season.

  15. Maryland transfer eligible this season at Georgia Tech

    Sep 19, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The 6-foot-8 forward has two years of eligibility remaining.

  16. Georgia Tech will hire former Marshall coach, promote another assistant

    Sep 19, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Tom Herrion AP

    The Yellow Jackets have added two new assistant to the coaching staff this offseason.

  17. Syracuse won’t know Dajuan Coleman’s status until November

    Sep 19, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

    Villanova v Syracuse Getty Images

    The Orange holds the first of two exhibition games on Nov. 2.

  18. South Carolina lands commitment from three-star power forward

    Sep 19, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT

    Scott Stuart/Rivals Scott Stuart/Rivals

    The Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) product picked the Gamecocks over Seton Hall and Rhode Island.

  19. Former Chattanooga assistant to join UAB coaching staff

    Sep 19, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    Chattanooga Athletics Chattanooga Athletics

    Interestingly enough, UAB visits Chattanooga December 22.