There’s a perception in some corners that Yuri Collins is overrated, that doesn’t get why Saint Louis Billikens fans won’t shut up on social media about this undersized point guard who can’t shoot very well, has middling advanced stats, and doesn’t score much. The nation’s leading assist leader, Collins was even left off the Cousy Watchlist for best point guards in the country. How did he respond? Against George Mason, Yuri Collins showed why SLU fans have had a severe case of “Yuri-Mania” from the moment the St. Louis native arrived on campus.
Yuri Collins. That’s the tweet. #TeamBlue pic.twitter.com/cVnXgnlmzj
— Saint Louis Men’s Basketball (@SaintLouisMBB) February 3, 2022
In a thrilling double overtime 92-90 win over Kim English’s upstart George Mason Patriots, Collins delivered the A10’s best individual performance of the season in the A10’s best game of the season so far, hitting the buzzer-beating layup and finishing with 35 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Double-double, quadruple-nickel, you name it, Collins did it, vaulting himself right into the thick of the A10 Player of the Year discussion in the process. You can debate who the best point guard in the A10 is (Collins has my vote), but it’s hard to argue that there’s a point guard in the A10 more important to his team’s success than Yuri Collins.
Some advanced stats from Yuri Collins’ 35-13-5-5 game, from Bart Torvik: 128.8 O-Rating on a 35.7 usage rate with a 72% assist rate and a 21.1 BPM. Elite performance from an elite point guard
— Jack Godar (@JackGodar) February 3, 2022
Collins has been the most valuable player on SLU this year and has stepped his game up massively since Javonte Perkins went down with a torn ACL in an exhibition game against Rockhurst. After averaging around 5 points a game in his first 2 seasons, Collins is now averaging 11.4 points and shooting 36% from deep. He’s also developed into an 80% free throw shooter, after shooting 56% his freshman year and 67% his sophomore year. His emergence as a scoring threat means teams must respect him more, opening up even more lanes for the floor general to work his magic, finding Francis Okoro and Marten Linssen for easy layups and rewarding Gibson Jimerson’s off-ball movement with open threes and layups off cuts.
Against George Mason, Collins took his offensive evolution to the next level. He started the game by draining two straight three pointers, setting the tone for a game in which he was not afraid to hunt his own shot. Collins’ 24 shot attempts, 7 three-point attempts and 10 free throw attempts are all career-highs and he had a 73% assist rate as well. He was absurd.
Collins also did this against a long George Mason team with good size and length, the type of team he historically has struggled against. Collins was patient driving in the lane, maneuvering around the defense to find open layups and floaters, and he was decisive in taking open jumpers when George Mason gave them to him. By all accounts, Yuri Collins put on an offensive masterclass.
Collins’ performance will go down as one of the best individual performances in Billiken history, and SLU now has a much-needed conference road win against a very good A10 team. Now the Billikens look to avenge their ArchBaron Cup loss to Dayton when the Flyers come to Chaifetz on Saturday, February 5 at 1pm CT. For the moment now, it’s time to bask in the greatness of what Collins achieved last night in the EagleBank Arena and appreciate one of the greatest Billiken point guards (and greatest point guards to come out of the city of St. Louis) of all time for a fantastic performance.