Sometimes it’s the subtle changes, something as under-the-radar or as simple as a change in one’s grooming habits that brings out the best, make that beast in a baller and the result is an unforgettable performance of firsts that carries a team to victory.
Such a spectacle happened when St. Louis University’s Hasahn French let his hair down, eschewing his braids in a return to the Afro-sporting locks look and in the process, made like Samson powering up to carry the Billikens to a 65-62 win over the Minutemen of UMass at Chaifetz Arena.
French, who was not expected to play due to back trouble, literally put his teammates on his back a la Samson by scoring a career-high 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the field and hitting 7 of 10 free throws.
French added three blocks, six rebounds, and three steals to his best outing as a collegian. More of the same will be expected of the 6’7’’ power forward from Middletown, New York following the request for and subsequent release of promising freshman forward Carte ‘Are Gordon from his scholarship to SLU.
Along with 6’9” DJ Foreman, French will be expected to log more minutes, anchor the frontline, provide rim protection, block more shots as a pair, grab more rebounds and score more points – all the while contributing to St. Louis’ defensive efficiency rating as the 16th best in the nation according to the Kenpom rankings.
Hasahn’s previous best was a 20-point outing at Dayton last season in which he hit 10 of 15 shots. If the Billikens are to finish atop the A-10 standings as predicted on their way to realizing their chance to Dance in March, French and Foreman will have to be up for the task. St. Louis University survived another dismal display from the charity stripe, making only 19 of 30 (63.3 percent) free throws.
They somehow managed to overcome a woeful 22 of 56 (39.3 percent) from the floor that included an abysmal 2 of 17 (11.8 percent) from beyond the arc in raising their record to 2-0 in conference play, 11-4 overall.
On a night when Travis Bess wasn’t at his best on both ends of the floor (he kept UMass leading scorer Luwane Pipkins in check most of the night), Jordan Goodwin not up to his usual standards and the supporting role players much the same, it was the exploits of French and Tramaine Isabel, Jr. (17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists) that allowed the Billikens to win in spite of their lack of physicality, careless turnovers listless offense.
Up next is a date with the La Salle Explorers in Philadelphia Saturday if the Billiken entourage can skirt the snow storm forecasted to hit the Midwest prior to their departure. Tip-off is five o’clock Central and who knows? By the time the plane lands, Hasahn French may well have convinced the coaching staff, teammates, team managers, trainers, and medical staff to let their hair down, too. Hey, there’s power in a good head of hair that’s game-changing. Just ask Samson, Delilah, and Hasahn!