McNeal: Three takeaways from SLU's win over La Salle
While the Billikens use their week off to prepare for their biggest game of the season so far, fans can use the time off to return their heart rates to normal after a pulsating 65-63 last-second victory over La Salle on Saturday.
Rob Loe, Jordair Jett and Jake Barnett celebrate their last-second win over La Salle on Saturday evening.
Howard Smith / USA TODAY Sports
By Stan McNeal
After a week in Philadelphia, the 13th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens will get a week off at home before they play again. They can use the time off to prepare for what will be their biggest game of the season so far, a Saturday afternoon matinee against VCU.
Their fans can use the time off to return their heart rates to normal after a pulsating 65-63 last-second victory over La Salle Saturday. Their fans also can use the week to enjoy some unprecedented numbers for the Billikens that include a 16-game winning streak, 22-2 record and, if the pollsters know what they're doing, a rise into the Top 10.
You know you're a great player when the other team knows what you want to do and you do it anyway. Take Jordair Jett, for example. With the score 61-61 following a La Salle basket and less than 30 seconds left, Jett had the ball out top just waiting and waiting. Everyone who has been paying attention this season knew Jett was planning to drive to the basket, and most likely to his left. He'd already done so numerous times in the second half. Just when you thought he had waited too long -- coach Jim Crews gave him the OK with less than 10 seconds to go -- Jett blew to the basket, beat two defenders and scored the game-winner -- with his left hand, of course.
Jett's finish and performance were reminiscent of what he did in the Billikens' conference opener at Rhode Island, when he went for a career-high 31 points and scored the winning basket. He finished with 25 against the Explorers, 19 after halftime, on 9-of-14 shooting from the field.
Loe responds in second half
Sometimes a player's value is best seen when he's not on the court. Rob Loe, for example. The Billikens looked like they were headed for another blowout win in the early going but Loe picked up his second foul barely four minutes in. With him sitting out the rest of the first half -- and his backup, John Manning, also picking up two quick fouls -- La Salle big men Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright had their way inside. They combined for 20 points and 12 rebounds (11 by Zack) to help La Salle finish the first half even at 33-33.
Loe came out tentative in the second half but after Crews pulled him for a couple of minutes, he returned and order on the inside was restored. Loe had his four-game streak of scoring in double figures snapped but he pulled down nine rebounds. He also had a key assist when he dished out to the corner to Austin McBroom for a 3-pointer that gave SLU a 48-47 lead. The Billikens did not trail again, though the game would be tied three times down the stretch.
SLU superb on free throws
If you want another reason to think the Billikens can go a long way in the NCAA, try free-throw shooting. At least lately. SLU's has been nearly off the charts in their past three games. The Billikens have made 51 of their past 57 free throws, a remarkable 89.4 percent. In their first 21 games, the Billikens missed at least six free throws in 14 games. In this three-game stretch, they've gone 13 for 15, 15 for 17 and 23 for 25.