Billikens set for early wake-up call in Dayton

Jordair Jett is coming off the best offensive game of his careeer, scoring 31 points in the Billikens' win over Rhode Island.

Jim Brown/Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — If you plan on watching the Saint Louis Billikens go for their ninth straight win on Saturday, you might want to set your alarm clock.

Tip-off for SLU’s game at Dayton (12-3) is 10 a.m. Central time, the earliest for the Billikens since they played at Xavier nearly three years ago. SLU lost that one 76-68 mainly because they had trouble getting started in a 24-point first half.

They should be better prepared for an a.m. tip this time. After squeezing past Rhode Island Tuesday night, the Billikens headed to Dayton rather than return to St. Louis. Staying on the road allowed them to get in some early practices. The Billikens started at 10 a.m. on Thursday and had an even earlier wakeup Friday for an 8:30 practice.

SLU will need to be at full alertness against the Flyers, who cracked the Top 25 earlier this season and are coming off an 83-80 overtime victory at Mississippi. This will be their Atlantic 10 opener.

The game features a contrast in styles. Dayton is the Atlantic 10’s best-shooting team at 48.4 percent; SLU is the across-the-board defensive leader. Take special note of the 3-point line, where SLU has allowed opponents to shoot just 24.6 percent, the second-best mark in the nation. The Flyers shoot a respectable 38.5 percent on 3’s, averaging 6.7 makes a game.

Two players to watch are SLU guard Jordair Jett and Dayton forward Devin Oliver. Both seniors are coming off the career-best games, with Jett scoring 31 of SLU’s 59 points at Rhode Island and Oliver going for a career-high 26 at Ole Miss. Both players also scored the winning baskets for their respective teams, Oliver with a 25-foot, straight-away 3-pointer at the buzzer. He told reporters after the game that he called the bank, too.

Sharp-shooter Jordan Siebert, a junior guard who transferred from Ohio State, leads Dayton with a 12.6 average. His 46.4 percent shooting on 3-pointers surely will be tested by the SLU defense, which is led by Jett.

Jett also has been leading the Billikens on offense lately. With 17 points and eight assists, he was SLU’s only player in double figures in their 57-49 win at Vanderbilt and he contributed seven assists in last week’s 20-point win over Yale.

His ability to get to the basket in half-court sets should start to benefit leading scorer Dwayne Evans, who has been held to a total of 27 points in the past three games. Opposing defenses are double-teaming Evans more and more when he gets the ball down low. The surest way to take pressure off Evans is for SLU to start hitting more from the outside, but the Billikens have struggled from the 3-point line in three of their past four games.   

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