T’was the night before Thanksgiving break when a so-called cupcake opponent from Detroit Mercy came into the STL. SLU was 3-1, riding high after a trip to NYC and looking to head into turkey day fat and happy with a win. But, even the best laid plans of mice and men…A lackluster effort on both ends of the floor and a loss at the buzzer on a 10 foot runner in the lane, and the complexion of the season shifted 180 degrees.

So, what did the Billikens learn before the Fight for the I-55 with the Redhawks from SEMO the night before Christmas break? They learned to start the game with the level of intensity they seemed to have been saving for the second half lately. From buzzer to buzzer SLU controlled the tempo, the glass, the everything on the hardwood of Chaifetz Arena.

Jordan Goodwin owned the first half. He got to the rack at will, played intense defense, and kept the sometimes stagnant offense flowing. The Freshman finished the night 20 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 9-13 from the floor. A shooting night that seemed incomprehensible after the season opener when he went 0-10. He has grown every single game since and is starting to fulfill the promise on which he was recruited.

As Coach Ford stated, this was their most efficient night of the season. 55.2% from the field, 40% from 3. If this is who SLU truly is, the A-10 will need to beware.

Friday Night's Takeaways

Roby Dunked Twice: My friend at the esteemed St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Stu Durando, and I had a disagreement, did Roby dunk once or twice? His first attempt snuck over the iron and he grabbed a little rim. The second was a no-doubt baseline hammer. I said two, Stu said one. So, I asked the senior Roby, and with a smile…he replied, “Definitely 2 dunks.” Those two dunks only accounted for 4 or his 21 points in the second half, and season-high 23 for the game.

JB owns the Rebound Chain Through Christmas: On Jordan Goodwin’s way out of the post-game presser I said, “there’s no rebound chain in here…” he threw his head back and said, “Man…I was two short.” Javon Bess gets to take the chain back to Ohio for Christmas Break after notching his second double of the double of the season on 14 points and 10 boards, along with 5 dimes, a block, and a steal.

Anthony the Unsung: Rashed Anthony doesn't always get a lot of clock, or much press, but Friday he was needed and he produced. 5 boards, 4 blocks, every screen he needed to set, he set. Coach Ford raved, “because of his effort I wanted to point him out in the locker room…you can’t forget the guys that do some of that dirty work…and he loves that role.” He spoke to Anthony’s attitude, how he never gets down no matter the situation or the playing time. “And that’s rare these days.”

Aaron “Microwave” Hines shines again: Step aside Vinny Johnson, Hines is coming for you. The Jr. Guard dropped 12 points on 5-7 shooting hitting two threes, and dropping 3 acrobatic layups that brought the near capacity crowd to their feet. Back to back double digit efforts and a barge full of confidence heading into conference play.

Up next comes the 90-day battle of life in the A-10. “Things get really intense from here,” was how Sr. Davell Roby put it. He spoke of back to backs, one day off here, maybe two there. Things do indeed change for the Billikens, no more games you can just write a “W” by.

SLU pushed their record to 7-6 with their offense starting to round into shape, an offense that will need to show up consistently for the next 3 months straight if SLU wants to battle for the A-10 and a shot at post season play. The conference schedule kicks off on the 30th as the Bills head to take on 6-7 La Salle, fresh off a loss to Bucknell.

Coach Ford gave his squad off until 12/26 to “get away from basketball” for a few days.

Until then…long live the men who do the dirty work.