SLU struggling to close

BY foxsports • January 12, 2012

Saint Louis University's defense has been very effective this season, but in a span in which it has lost three of its past four games, it's let them down when they needed it the most.
  
In the final three minutes of regulation and in five minutes of overtime against Dayton, the Flyers made five of seven shots. In the final five minutes of Temple's 72-67 win on Wednesday, the Owls made five of seven shots, and went to the free throw line on three other occasions.
  
In an evenly matched Atlantic 10 season where just about every game figures to be close, that figures to be an issue. Those numbers stand out because SLU went into its game with Temple holding opponents to 40 percent shooting from the field.
  
"We have to be tough for the last five minutes because there's going to be a lot of games where it's going to come down to the last five minutes and we have to get stops," SLU forward Brian Conklin said. "We didn't get stops in the last five minutes at Dayton, we didn't get them tonight. Teams are scoring at will the last five minutes. You have to buck up, get stops, and we're not doing that right now. With how tough the league is, that's what it's going to come down to. In a one-point game, we needed that stop, and didn't get it. It's really frustrating."
  
Why SLU's defense hasn't been as strong in late-game situations lately could stem from several factors. Though SLU is using a nine-man rotation, the rotation gets shrunk down to six or seven in tight games, and players like Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell are logging extensive minutes. And often, at least two of the players on the court are sophomores -- usually Dwayne Evans and Jordair Jett -- who have gotten a lot of playing time in their 1 1/2 seasons but are still just learning the offense. And even then, SLU coach Rick Majerus singled out Conklin, the most experienced and smartest player on the team, for a defensive error late in the game.



Ellis can't find touch from behind the arc
  
F Cody Ellis has improved the defensive half of his game, which has held him back in his first two seasons at SLU, but it's come at the cost of his shooting. Ellis made just two of six 3-pointers against Temple and has made just nine of his past 28 attempts over six games. Ellis got off to a strong start shooting threes this season, but as the opposition has gotten tougher in league play, his numbers have come down.
  
Kwamain Mitchell had his most productive offensive game in a month, scoring 16 points against Temple, but he took 16 shots to get them and still at times drives recklessly to the basket. But he did better in the closing minutes Wednesday, hitting a couple of clutch 3-point shots as SLU came from nine down to Temple to get within a point in the closing minutes.
  
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You don't need to be confident to defend and rebound." -- Coach Rick Majerus, asked if the back-to-back losses to New Mexico and Dayton had had any impact on his team's confidence.


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