Tonight, the Saint Louis University Billikens entered the Atlantic 10 conference tournament as the lowest seed of the tournament, the 14th. The Billikens faced the Duquesne Dukes who were the 11th seed. The two teams spilt the regular season series with both teams winning one matchup.
Both teams struggled offensively for the first couple of minutes as SLU tried to go to the paint early and often. Duquesne figured that SLU would do this and jammed the paint not allowing the Billikens to score any easy baskets. The Billikens did a great job adjusting to the Dukes strategy and began to drop threes from long range and jumped out to a 6-2 lead. The Billikens cooled off for a little bit and allowed the Dukes to jump out to a 14-9 lead.
Both teams battled back and forth not allowing a team to grab a hold of the lead. With 33 seconds left in the first half, freshman Marcus Bartley knocked down a three and gave the Billikens the lead at halftime 26-23. The Billikens were led by freshman Marcus Bartley and sophomore Mike Crawford both scored nine in the first half.
At the half, the Billikens shot 32% from the field and 50% from the three-point line.
In the second half, the Billikens lead did not last long when the Dukes opened up with a three pointer to tie the game. The Billikens refocused and went back to their original game plan of getting into the paint. As sophomore Reggie Agbeko, sophomore Mike Crawford, junior Ash Yacoubou all contributed with lay ups and mini-hook shots to grow the Billiken lead.
Both teams were neck and neck as the game headed down the stretch. Late close games favor a more experienced team as the Billikens constantly have struggled to close out games. With 4:17 remaining in the game, freshman Davell Roby hit a three-point jumper to give the Billikens the lead 52-51. The Duke’s Gill responded with a three of his own to give the Dukes the lead. On the next Billiken possession, Davell Roby pulled up for another three to give the Billikens the lead 55-54.
After the official TV timeout, the Billikens began to unravel. The Dukes Jeremiah Jones hit both free throws to give the Dukes the lead. After a SLU turnover, the Dukes Gill hit a free-throw line jumper to grow their lead to 58-55. After a missed three attempt by the Billikens, they were forced to foul as the Dukes Derrick Colter. He hit the final 3 out of 4 free throw attempts to give the Dukes the right to advance in the tournament. The final score was 61-55. The Billikens were led tonight by sophomore Mike Crawford who finished the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Billikens finished the season with a record of 11-21 and 3-15 in the conference.
Billiken fans can be optimistic about this result as the Billikens showed a lot of spirit as they fought to the end of their season. Another thing to be optimistic about is the Billikens don’t really lose players expect senior John Manning who did not play in tonight’s game and contributed only 3% of total Billiken scoring. However, the Billikens do lose a very important person in their organization with a lot of influence on the team, and that person is senior manager Matt Marske. Marske brought a lot of energy and spirit that helped the coaches and inspired the players to soar to new heights. Senior manager Matt Marske will be missed, but he leaves behind a team that has shown signs of spirit and belief in themselves due to the efforts of guys like Matt Marske. The Billikens showed signs of life and growth, which should leave Billiken fans optimistic and excited about the start of the next season.
(Photo Credit: Saint Louis University Athletics)