The La Salle Explorers traveled to the Chaifetz Arena for a mid-week showdown against the Saint Louis Billikens. Both teams were coming of two game losing streaks and were looking to right the ship.
SLU guard Fred Thatch Jr. has been hot the past few games for the Billikens and guard Yuri Collins came into the game just two assists shy of 500 for his career (spoiler alert, he gets it).
When the clock hit triple zeroes the score read 90-64 in favor of the Billikens.
SLU won the opening tip, scored the opening bucket and never looked back; starting the game off with a 7-0 run. La Salle never lead during the first half, despite Jack Clark dropping 18 first half points off 7/12 shooting. However, Clark’s efforts were overshadowed by freshman guard Jordan Nisbett making it rain with 16 points of his own, only missing two of his eight shots in the first half, also adding three buckets from beyond the arc.
The first ten minutes were owned by the Billikens who were shooting the lights out from deep at an unconscious rate of 62.5% in the first ten minutes, as opposed to the Explorers shooting at a mere 20% clip from beyond in the same period. Yuri Collins was doing his usual role of facilitating the offense; it seemed that every single pass he made led to a bucket for SLU.
When they went to the break, SLU lead La Salle 51-32. The Billikens were just outplaying the Explorers in just about every category you could measure in basketball; most notably rebounds, where they out-rebounded the Explorers 21 to 9.
SLU came out of the half picking up right where they left off, letting it rain from deep and being more aggressive on the glass. The Billikens finished the game making 10 of their 16 shots from beyond and a staggering 64.3% field goal percentage.
La Salle tried to get their three point shot going as they usually do, shooting a total of 26 on the game, but they could only get seven to fall. The Explorers just wasn’t hitting their shots, and as simple of a concept it is, you need to score points to win a basketball game. La Salle guard Josh Nickelberry, who has been playing well as of late, couldn’t get into a rhythm only hitting one of his ten shots. It makes it hard to win games when one of your top scorers can’t hit his shots.
There were a few bright spots for the Explorers, however.
Senior forward Clifton Moore continued to assert himself as one of the better big men in the A10, scoring 20 points and throwing a block party in Saint Louis, racking up 4 blocks on the night. Moore has a staggering 15 blocks over his last four games, showing that you shouldn’t drive the lane on the 6’10” senior.
Jack Clark also had a good showing with 18 of his own points, a good bounce back from when the Explorers played SLU just last week when he could only muster 2 points. Clark has put together a stretch of good games scoring, achieving double digits in 7 of his last 8 games.
Another rare bright spot for the Explorers was their free throw shooting, as they took 16 free throws and only missed 1, good for 93.8% from the line. La Salle has struggled with free throws all season, so if there is any sort of silver lining to this game for Explorer fans, it’s the FT percentage.
Other than Clark and Moore, however, La Salle couldn’t generate much offense, as they were the only two explorers to score double digit points. The Billikens relied on multiple scorers to secure the W. Fred Thatch Jr. led the way with 21 points, continuing his hot streak, and Jordan Nesbitt rode out his first half total of 16 points. Freshman guard Gibson Jimerson chipped in 12 of his own points including two bombs from deep, and sophomore forward Terrance Hargrove Jr. came off the bench and contributed 13 points.
This game is a promising turnaround for the Billikens after dropping their last two, and they hope to carry this momentum to Davidson as they travel to take on the Wildcats this Saturday.
As for La Salle, the woes continue, as they have won just one game in their last nine contests. They continue their road trip with a stop at UMass to take on the Minutemen this Saturday, as they look to have a better performance than they did tonight.