ST. LOUIS - 18. Standing alone, it’s a fine number. A fun birthday, a good year thus far. But, 18 can be deadly. When you put 18 in the turnover column of a college basketball game, it's devastating.
18 is the number the St. Louis Billikens placed in the turnover column of their box score in an 75-74 overtime loss to conference foe VCU on Tuesday night, and it doomed them.
The Billikens played well in every other aspect of the game. They out-rebounded the Rams 48-31, shot 41% from the floor and 72.4 percent from the line. They had two players, Javon Bess and D.J. Foreman, score 20 points each. But, 18 turnovers, and 14 points given up off those turnovers. That, as they say, is the ball game.
You can point to a late missed free throw, the decision not to foul with 4 seconds left and up 3, or the fact that Coach Travis Ford played 4 players 40+ minutes, and another 35. You can harp on all of these facts and how they played a part. But, it’s the 18 turnovers. It’s inexcusable.
The press that VCU played for the last 28 minutes was relentless. It wasn’t so much getting across half court, but what SLU did after that. Player after player, feeling the freedom of breaking the first level of the press then went flying wildly to the rim only to lose the ball off their knee, or throw a 3 foot bullet pass out of bounds. They rarely took the time to catch their breathe, slow the offense, and control the game.
You can give the credit to the Rams. Especially, Justin Tillman, the senior out of Detroit who was too much for SLU’s big men. In the second half he scored whenever and from wherever he wanted. Finishing with 25 points and 12 rebounds on 12-21 shooting. Every time VCU needed a basket, he got it. At will.
And again, you can point out all these other contributing factors, but it was 18. 18 turnovers in a home conference game. 18.
It as simple as this. When you put 18 in the turnover column at any level, from 2nd grade to the NBA, you deserve the loss that gets placed in the standings.