When the Billikens last met the La Salle Explorers in Tom Gola Arena at the start of February, things did not go quite as expected. SLU dropped their second consecutive game and third on the year to Ashley Howard’s upset-happy squad. SLU has followed up that disappointing result with impressive wins over St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island and looks to have finally returned to their pre-COVID form on both sides of the ball. La Salle, in turn, has dropped games to St. Bonaventure and a lowly Fordham team. So what went wrong in Philadelphia?
First, Travis Ford and company were coming off nearly 40 days without any in game action prior to a loss against Dayton a few days prior, and very limited practice opportunities. Coach Ashley Howard has developed a knack for knocking off superior opponents this year, with the 3 of the Explorers’ 8 wins this season coming against the trio of SLU, Richmond, and Dayton. This time around, Saint Louis will have their legs under them after a month of full throttle basketball activities.
Another large part of the La Salle upset was the source of its scoring. David Beatty led all scorers with a career high 22 points, despite averaging just 4 PPG in his previous 6 contests. Beatty was one of 5 Explorers registering double digits, although only sophomore guard Sherif Kenney can boast an average PPG of 10 or more. Look for Travis Ford to scheme his defense to prevent the same occurrence happening tonight.
While Coach Ford’s strategic maneuvers will play a big role in the game tonight, his players must execute better to avoid a similar fate. Leading scorers Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin combined for 25 points on 29% FG in Philadelphia, and the Billikens team as a whole shot a woeful 4-19 from beyond the arc. Perhaps most importantly, star big man Hasahn French must stay out of foul trouble, as he only logged 17 minutes in their last matchup. His presence can transform the game on both sides of the ball, and although some of his fouls were questionable calls last time around, he must remain as disciplined as possible to optimize the Bills’ odds of victory.
At the moment, PG Yuri Collins is listed as questionable, still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the win against URI. Having sat out against Fordham last Saturday, I anticipate Travis Ford holding his young facilitator out of this one in an attempt to keep him healthy for the second leg of the Revenge Tour in Dayton on Friday.I think he’ll instead opt for the senior leadership of Jordan Goodwin to assume the role of primary ball handler, one that he has taken on brilliantly, possessing an Assist/Turnover Ratio of 11:1 in his limited minutes at the point.
Pick and Prediction:
The line is set at SLU -16, with the O/U sitting at 141.
Despite the results of last game, and the possible absence of Yuri Collins, I expect SLU to make a statement on its home floor to push themselves off the bubble, as legendary bracketologist Joe Lunardi covered in a recent podcast episode, and cover -16.
Saint Louis: 81
La Salle: 63