(AP) — Part of the Top 25 for the first time this season, Saint Louis showed it belonged last time out while taking another step toward its first Atlantic-10 championship.
Now the 18th-ranked Billikens may have a chance to clinch at least a share of the title if they win an 11th consecutive game and claim their first road victory over slumping George Washington on Saturday.
Their best finish since joining the A-10 in 2005-06 was second place last season. Saint Louis, ranked for the first time since Nov. 28, 2011, has a one-game lead over VCU with three to play. That means the Billikens will claim at least a piece of the conference title if they win Saturday and the Rams lose to No. 20 Butler earlier in the day.
After a sparkling season debut in the Top 25 with a 70-53 victory over Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday, the Billikens (22-5, 11-2) have won 10 straight by an average of 14.5 points. It’s the program’s longest winning streak since opening the 1993-94 season 14-0.
“We’re on a real good streak right now,” reserve forward Cory Remeken said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Dwayne Evans has keyed the tear, scoring in double figures in all 10 games after doing so just twice in the previous 10. The junior forward is averaging 16.0 points and 7.8 rebounds during the win streak while shooting 58.3 percent.
Evans said interim coach Jim Crews, who has taken over for the late Rick Majerus, isn’t letting the team focus on its accomplishments to this point.
“You can’t listen to the noise, positive or negative,” Evans said after finishing with 21 points and 12 boards Wednesday.
Evans also led the Billikens with 19 points and 11 rebounds in a 78-56 win over the Colonials last season in the teams’ most recent meeting. However, Saint Louis is 0-4 all-time at George Washington, last losing there 52-46 on Jan. 29, 2011.
The Billikens, though, have won five in a row on the road, most recently winning at Butler last Friday.
Mike McCall Jr. scored a season-high 18 in that game and is averaging 14.3 points over his last three, four above his season mark.
Saint Louis, however, is built around a league-leading defense that allows 57.9 points per game and held the Hawks to a season-low 32.6 percent from the field Wednesday. The Billikens appear poised for another stingy performance against the Colonials, who have lost four of five while averaging 60.8 points on 39.6 percent shooting.
George Washington (12-14, 6-7) is a dreadful 7 of 43 (16.3 percent) from 3-point range during that slump, which has put the team in danger of missing the conference tournament. The Colonials are in a four-way tie for ninth place – one game ahead of 13th-place Dayton – and only the league’s top 12 teams qualify.
Their offense was a bit better Wednesday, shooting 53.7 percent from the field, but they committed 22 turnovers in a 73-64 loss at Richmond. George Washington is averaging a league-worst 16.1 turnovers.
Freshmen starters Kevin Larsen and Kethan Savage, however, are starting to show some promise after combining for 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting Wednesday.
The Colonials have lost 13 straight to ranked teams since beating Maryland in 2005, and 13 in a row to Top 25 teams on the road since defeating the Terrapins in 1997.