SLU basketball is a lot of things, but good for one’s health is not that. The Billikens’ 20th win was in many ways a typical Saint Louis effort: dominant rebounding, atrocious free throw shooting, and incredibly nerve-wracking. I’m glad I’m covering this team in the age of Twitter, because I can’t imagine having to watch that on press row without having an outlet for my emotions (or HeMotions, as JuiceWRLD calls them these days)
Hasahn French led the way for the Billikens, playing maybe his best game of the year in front of his family. French had 22 points and 12 rebounds, on a hyper efficient 11-16 from the field.
“I knew my team needed me to play aggressive and when I got inside, I knew in my gut that most likely they couldn’t guard me in there” French said.
The Billikens suffered through a rocky first half, as Grant Golden and Richmond took a 36-30 lead. Golden had 16 points in the first half and SLU seemingly had no answer for the long-locked big man. Richmond was only called for one foul that half, and after a no call on what looked to be a charge, Travis Ford nearly got a technical after confronting the officials all the way out at frontcourt.
At halftime, Ford made a switch, and went with the Billikens’ “13” defense, which is their aggresive halfcourt trap.
“It was more for our benefit than getting turnovers. I wanted to get our guys going, get our juices flowing a little bit” said Ford.
While the Billikens scuffled throughout the game, and went down by as much as ten, they slowly began to assert themselves, espeically on the boards. SLU had a 27-6 rebounding advantage in the second half. Out of SLU’s 42 rebounds, 18 of them were offensive.
In addition to French, Tramaine Isabell Jr. poured in 17 points on 7-13 shooting. Isabell has really emerged these past few games as a top scorer and will be key to whether SLU continues in the tournament. Ford said that Isabell has been one of the best players in the A-10 these past three weeks.
“I think things are clicking, I’m understanding my teammates, I’m learning where coach wants me to attack from and I think the game is moving a lot slower” said Isabell.
Next up, SLU faces Dayton, in the third battle of the ArchBaron Cup. The series is currently split, with each team winning their home game. It’s going to be a tough game, but I think it’s a winnable one for the Bills. Below are some keys to the game:
Stay consistent: SLU has a tendency to ebb and flow, espeically offensively. However, with a team as good as Dayton, they can’t afford to have any dry spells. As the Billikens’ only reliable shot creator, a lot of this will fall on Isabell to get the offense going when things stagnate.
Outrebound the other team: This one is obvious, but SLU’s identity is tied so tightly with their rebounding. SLU pretty much needs an outrageous rebounding margin to win because it makes up for their deficiencies scoring and hitting free throws.
Hit at least 60 percent free throws: It’s really hard to win when you only hit 60 percent, but if you’re under, you’re done for. SLU just barely hit the 50 percent mark this game, but they’ll need to do better if they’re going to take the final ArchBaron Cup of 2019 and move on in the A-10 Tournament.