SAINT LOUIS — The Santa Clara Broncos walked into Chaifetz arena on Wednesday night and immediately took ownership of the building. Whatever they wanted, the venue normally reserved for the Saint Louis Billikens was theirs.
The Broncos attacked the basket at will. The Broncos dropped NBA-range 3-pointer after 3-pointer. The Broncos defense stymied a typically methodical Saint Louis offense. The Broncos had answers before the Billikens had questions.
Starting to get the picture?
Santa Clara senior guard Kevin Foster scored a game-high 30 points as the Broncos rolled past a listless Billikens squad 74-62.
“Santa Clara is a very good basketball team,” Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews said following the game. “They played very well. We didn’t play very good. We were pretty consistent at not being very good tonight.”
For as consistently bad as the Billikens were, Foster was equally as good.
Saint Louis had no answer for the one they call ‘Microwave,’ as his offense was instant. Even against one of the better defenders in the Atlantic 10 in Jordair Jett, Foster got what he wanted.
“We can’t get a better match,” Crews said. “Jordair was on him, I mean he was all-conference defense, so we can’t get a better match. But Foster had his way. He absolutely had his way. “
Foster was 10-of-18 shooting from the field. He also handed out five assists while wrecking havoc on the defensive end with seven steals.
By no means did the Billikens’ struggle on defense rest solely on the shoulders of Jett, but rather on the defensive unit as a whole.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” senior forward Cody Ellis said. “We are not the most athletic team, not the most talented team, but we are going to be good because we shut people down. And tonight was just a complete falloff from where we’ve been.”
Santa Clara shot 58.1 percent from the field, created 17 turnovers featuring 11 steals and had a quick answer for the few offensive spurts the Billikens tried to put together.
“Bottom line is we didn’t get it done,” said junior forward Dwayne Evans. “Hopefully myself and the guys take this to heart. We can’t let this happen again.”
For Saint Louis, defense leads to offense. And when the defense was nowhere to be found, it created problems for the offense. The offensive flow was non-existent and it caused many uncharacteristic forced shots throughout the night.
“We quit on our offense continually,” Crews said. “We would only get to one side, maybe two, then kind of quit instead of running it through.
“We just quit on our offense.”
Rob Loe led the way in scoring for the Billikens with 13 while Evans chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds.
SLU finished with a woeful 35.3 shooting percentage that included a 5-for-17 effort from behind the arc.
Freshman guard Keith Carter appeared to injure his knee in the second half when a Bronco fell into his leg from behind. The significance of the injury was unknown following the game, but could cause a reason for concern for a team already dealing with depth issues.
Moving forward, Saint Louis will look to learn and improve from the early disappointment.
As many expectations have been placed on the current roster due to last season’s success, players know it will take time to adjust.
“This is a different team than last year,” Evans said. “We can make all the comparisons to last season, but these are different guys with different roles.”
“Tonight was a reality check,” Ellis said. “Hopefully we learn from it and move forward.”
The Billikens (1-1) will need to figure it out quickly, as they head to the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Monday to take on Texas A&M at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. If they win, they will more than likely face perennial powerhouse Kansas.