ST. LOUIS - The crowd at Chaifetz Arena got their money’s worth the night before Thanksgiving.
Each of the nearly 6,000 in attendance deserve a good night’s sleep after a back and forth battle between SLU and Detroit Mercy that ended on one handed runner in the lane by Kameron Chatman with .8 seconds left. Sending SLU to 3-2 in non-conference play after their second straight loss and first at home.
72-70 - Heartbreak and dejection.
Coach Ford tried to shake the hands of the Detroit Mercy team, but they were dogpiled on the floor. The fill in head coach Jermaine Jackson, a Detroit Mercy alumni and former league player of the year, looked as though he was reliving his playing days, jumping and yelling as loud as he could. To the victor go the spoils of joy.
Coach Ford looked back one last time and headed straight to the locker room.
“They wanted it more than us, they wanted the ball, they wanted to score,” was the way freshman center Hasahn French summed up the loss.
French was not the issue in this regard. Despite foul trouble he turned in a career night with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks. He was joined by teammate Jalen Johnson in the post-game presser who echoed French’s sentiments on effort and engagement adding that the Billikens were “not emotionally into the game.” And Johnson, like French was not part of the problem. He had 16 of SLU’s 32 points in the first half and finished with a career high 24 points on 8 of 15 shooting.
So it was effort, but that wasn't the only issue on the evening. It was the same story for the Billikens in several areas: 12 turnovers, six - 24 from three for 25 percent, only converting 12 of 20 from the line.
Another poor offensive night and some ill-advised shots. The point guard position on the evening between Jordan Goodwin and Aaron Hines went a combined five of 23 from the field and one of nine from three, in a combined 61 minutes.
“Our attention to detail was not where it needs to be…If we don’t defend and rebound at an extremely high level it’s going to be a battle, we didn't create much defense into offensive,” Coach Travis Ford said.
And the offensive looked like it has every contest thus far, but the defensive issues were a surprise. SLU could not stop 6’1” junior guard Josh McFolley who dropped 22 points and seemed to squeeze into the lane like a contortionist whenever he wanted. Last second hero Kameron Chatman added 18 points and nine boards to lead the Titans in the upset.
“They’re a tough team for us to guard because they have so many good one on one players,” Coach Ford said.
With SLU's defense oriented around switching at every position, this was an issues for all 40 minutes. Coach Ford stated that the switching wasn’t the problem, but the matchups that occurred after the switches. Detroit Mercy would take advantage of the bigs that were switched onto the smaller and quicker guards and get to the rack at will.
A loss like this, to a team SLU should have defeated handedly, changes the entire perspective on the Billikens' season. The team that got off to a 3-0 start looked like a defensive behemoth headed to a 17-to-20-win season. The team of the last two contests looks like a possible cellar dweller in the A-10.
Which team are they? Do they end up somewhere in between? Do they ever find a solution to their offensive woes? Do they remedy the energy and focus problems discussed by player and coach alike? Those are the questions SLU’s coaching staff and team leaders must address and answer in the next six days before taking on Western Michigan.
If they don’t start to remedy these issues, it’s going to be a long dreadful winter in St. Louis.