There I two things I know in my bones about this year’s St. Louis University men’s hoops squad. First, when they play defense to the peak of their abilities they can compete with any team in this country, period. Second, when they play offense as poorly as they have most of this season, they can lose to any team in the nation, 1 thru 351, period. They are two different teams, two different squads made of the same players.
If this year’s Billikens averaged just 75 points a game, they would be a top 25 team with their defense leading the way. Just 75 a game and they would be 9-3, maybe better. Instead, they’re 6-6 after a win in Tuesday night’s contest with the fine Camels from Campbell.
The first half offense was far too familiar. SLU could only muster 30 points and trailed Campbell by 8. 9-22 from the field and 6 turnovers. Then, the other SLU showed up. The SLU that pressures relentlessly. The SLU that forces the other team to bend, and eventually break. The SLU that never ever stops coming at you.
The offense dropped 44 on Campbell outscoring the Camels by 16 in the final frame. What is the issue? Every game, from the players to the Coach all say one word.
Coach Ford opened his post-game statements that by stating he was “Really pleased with the second half…but really upset at half time,” and that the bulk of their issues came from “not following the scouting report and allowing threes.” But, again, it came down to effort. “More than anything it was the effort and intent to make plays.” The second half was better “Because we played to our strengths.” Then he doubled down and stated once again that the team “needs effort consistently from the beginning to the end.” The levels of intensity the squad can reach are as high as a team can get, but the lows could put even my buddy Muggs to sleep after her 11th coffee.
After 12 games, we all may need to resign ourselves to the fact that this is just what this team is. A .500 ball club that has no discernable offensive identity, no true shooters, no true shot creators, and no sets that showcase the few top shelf athletes they do have. They’re capable of being great, and just as capable of being abysmal.
Chris Clemons of the Campbell Camels is the next Nate Robinson: Wow, just wow. This kid can straight ball out. He has a bright green light from anywhere inside of half court. He has no conscious on the floor, and was the best player in the arena. Then with about 1 minute left he double tapped the b button and jumped almost out of Chaifetz. It was an real, holy…what the??? Moment. This kid needs to get a shot at the next level.
Jalen Johnson and Pure Efficiency: Look at these numbers. 4-6 from the field, 3-3 from deep, 6-6 from the line for 17 points. 14 in the second half. That's what you call having a night.
Hines and the battle of the smalls: Aaron Hines is about 5’9’ when he first wakes up before gravity and the day take their toll. In the aforementioned Clemons he saw the same build, and wanted to test his metal. He had his best all around game of the season, 18 points in 23 minutes while going 11-13 from the line. Even more impressive, he grabbed 6 boards. Score one for the short ones.
French and the takeover of the rebound chain: Hasahn admitted that Jalen Johnson got a little chesty after taking the team Rebound Chain on it’s inaugural night. “I told him I was coming for it.” And French took it home. He grabbed a career high 12 boards to go along with his 11 points, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. One of the blocks was the best I have ever seen in person. Hasahn blocked a dunk attempt about fourteen inches above the rim. Wow, again, just wow.
Up Next, SEMO on Friday night here in the STL. The Redhawks come in 6-5 with four players averaging double figures. Which SLU will show up? If the Billikens of the second half arrive, SEMO doesn't stand a chance. If the first half Bills show up, it will be a long night in Midtown. Until then, long live the battle of the 5’9” D-1 PG.