‘Non-emotional’ Billikens finally celebrate after snagging A-10 regular-season title outright
The Saint Louis University basketball team didn’t celebrate when it clinched a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference championship Wednesday. But the Billikens would when they won it outright Sunday.
Jordair Jett’s layup with 3 seconds remaining gave No. 17 SLU a 64-62 victory at Massachusetts, snapped the team’s three-game losing skid and secured the Billikens’ second consecutive outright A-10 title.
"This has been a very non-emotional team," coach Jim Crews said on the 101.1 ESPN radio postgame show. "They’re emotional now. That was the most excited I’ve ever seen them, so that was awesome. Awesome to see young kids fight and get rewarded and really feel great about it. That was neat."
Saint Louis (26-5 overall, 13-3 A-10) now gets a much-needed few days off before the Atlantic 10 Conference championship tournament in Brooklyn.
As the tourney’s No. 1 seed, the Billikens don’t play again until the quarterfinal round at 11 a.m. Friday at the Barclays Center. They will play the winner of Thursday’s game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds.
JORDAIR JETT: PLAYER OF THE YEAR?
If he hadn’t already, Jett likely secured the conference’s Player of the Year award with his performance against the Minutemen.
Jett finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting and added four rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot in a team-high 32 minutes. He did not commit a turnover, a key stat considering the rest of the team accounted for 14.
Jett’s layup in the final seconds gave SLU its first lead of the second half.
He has been selected the league’s player of the week four times this season, and Sunday’s game-winner could make it five. With four (or five) such accolades on his resume this season, Jett has to be the favorite for the award.
Two of the Billikens’ problem areas were not issues down the stretch.
SLU had just four turnovers in the second half and did not turn the ball over in the final 8 minutes, which helped the Billikens keep the score within reach before making their move late.
Crews’ club made its final nine free-throw attempts, another key stat late in the game. SLU was 12 of 19 at the charity stripe in the game, but sank 10 of 12 attempts in the second half.
The turnovers and free throws were clutch against UMass.
The Billikens got a big boost from their bench Sunday.
John Manning, who has played some of the best basketball of his SLU career in the past two games, contributed eight points, three rebounds and one blocked shot in 13 minutes of action.
Austin McBroom had only two points but played 25 minutes. Tanner Lancona had one rebound and one blocked shot in 14 minutes. Grandy Glaze grabbed six rebounds and had an assist in just eight minutes.
Jake Barnett (29 minutes), Rob Loe (28), Dwayne Evans (26) and Mike McCall Jr. (25) all played less than in Wednesday’s loss to Dayton. Only Jett, with 32 minutes, played more Sunday than he did Wednesday.
One theory on SLU’s recent losing skid was that the heavy minutes logged by the Billikens’ five senior starters had finally caught up to them. That remains something to watch going forward, but the more SLU’s bench players can produce, the less of an issue that should be in the postseason.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.