Billikens battle but can’t pull off upset at George Washington

Freshman Marcus Bartley got the start at point guard for the Billikens and finished with six points and two assists. 

Take away a 2 1/2-minute stretch of the second half and the Saint Louis Billikens would have scored a major upset at George Washington on Tuesday night.

Of course, that’s no more possible than bringing back last year’s starting lineup of seniors.

So the Billikens had to settle for a strong and encouraging effort in a 75-72 loss to the Colonials. SLU played as well as it has all season throughout the first half and first five minutes of the second. When Austin McBroom hit a 3-pointer with 14:45 left, the Billikens had a 49-39 lead. But then came trouble. Three fouls, two missed shots and a turnover later, SLU’s lead was gone. At the 12:19 mark, GW made two free throws to tie the score at 49.

But the Billikens did not fold, overcoming a deficit that reached six to tie the game with 3:47 left. GW went up by six again with half a minute remaining, but a 3-pointer by Milik Yarbrough and a forced turnover gave SLU a chance to tie with 18.4 seconds left. The only shot they could get off, though, was a 3-pointer by Mike Crawford that was blocked at the buzzer. Considering GW had outscored its first five opponents at home by an average of 26.6 points, a one-possession loss was not so bad for a team that got 51 points from its freshmen.

"I’m proud of them. It looked like they grew up a little tonight," SLU coach Jim Crews said in postgame remarks on 101 ESPN.

YARBROUGH IS TAKING OVER 

One of the freshmen is fast emerging as the Billikens’ best player. He would be the 6-foot-6 Yarbrough, who scored a career-best 26 points against the Colonials after scoring a career-best 19 points last Saturday in the conference opener. Yarbrough played 38 minutes, made 11 of 18 shots and tied Ash Yacoubou with a team-high six rebounds. Two of Yarbrough’s misses came on shots right under the basket, too.

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Yarbrough has reached double figures in four straight games and has his average up to double figures, at 10.3. He trails McBroom by just three points for the team scoring lead.

CREWS CAN LOSE HIS COOL

You really couldn’t blame Crews for being whistled for a technical foul — believed to be his first at SLU — with nine minutes to go. Davell Roby had just picked up a foul on what wasn’t the first questionable whistle to go against the Billikens. There was a lopsided free-throw disparity all night. With 6:53 left, GW had shot 26 free throws to three for SLU. The Bills finished five for seven from the line, GW 23 for 34.

The two Billiken misses were costly, though. They came with less than two minutes to go and down six, both John Manning and Yarbrough missed the front end of one-and-ones.

From watching on TV, Crews did not appear to do much for the technical. He seemed to be having a reasonable discussion with one of the officials, but as the official moved away, Crews — fairly calmly — said something else and the T was called.

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McBROOM MOVES TO THE BENCH

The decision to start Marcus Bartley instead of McBroom paid off immediately when Bartley took a charge on GW’s first possession. SLU’s offense also seemed to run smoother with Bartley handling the ball in the first half, but that might have had more to do with GW’s sluggish defense.

By game’s end, it wasn’t clear how much the switch in the lineup helped. Bartley didn’t score until hitting a 3-pointer to even the game at 64, finishing with six points and two assists and two turnovers. He spent a lot of the second half on the bench in foul trouble.

McBroom also finished with six points on two 3-pointers in four attempts, playing 23 minutes to 24 for Bartley. 

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.