Defense fueling offense for Billikens

Saint Louis University basketball games are seldom pretty to look at. Forward Cody Ellis compared SLU’s 64-50 win over Richmond on Wednesday to pulling teeth, and nine out of dentists would agree.
While SLU’s defense drives opponents nuts — Richmond shot just 35.3 percent against SLU, the fourth straight SLU opponent to be at 40 percent shooting or less — the Billikens’ offense can be equally maddening. Free throws don’t drop, layups and other shots around the basket don’t go in.
But with a defense so good, SLU’s offense doesn’t have to overwhelm. The Billikens seem able to put together one good flurry each half that serves to give it the room it needs for a win. Against Richmond, it was a 7-0 run in about a minute-and-a-half that turned a game where Richmond had the ball and a chance to tie into a 10-point lead for the Billikens.
“Our defense dictates how we play on the offensive end,” Ellis said. “When we’re not getting stops, our offense gets stagnant and we don’t move the ball well. When we’re gritty, getting stops, get the tempo going offensively and our offense flows. We just have to make that more consistent.”
SLU went into the Richmond game just eighth in the league in field-goal percentage, at 42.9 percent. The three other teams that are at the top of the Atlantic 10 standings, Temple, Xavier and UMass, are first, third and fourth respectively. Going into its game Saturday against Fordham, SLU’s offense is not dazzling, but it remains good enough to keep the Billikens neck and neck with Temple for the conference lead.

Two games after he made six 3-pointers against St. Joseph’s to key a big win on the road, junior F Cody Ellis became a low-post player. He made five of seven two-point shots for 14 points as SLU took advantage of mismatches and got the ball to Ellis on the block repeatedly against Richmond. “That’s probably the most shots I’ve ever taken inside the line,” he said.
Junior F Cory Remekun had his second straight productive game, scoring nine points, grabbing seven rebounds and getting rave reviews on his defense. Remekun has 14 points in his past two games; he had 12 points in his previous 12 games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 The Billikens managed a 59-51 win over La Salle on Feb. 11 despite tying a season high with 17 turnovers. They made up for their own sloppiness by forcing the Explorers into 20 turnovers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Conklin recently scored 1,000 (career) points, and he had one scholarship offer. That was from the Billikens. When you saw him as a freshman, you didn’t know if he was going to score 100 (career) points.” — Coach Rick Majerus, on the progress senior Brian Conklin has made.