ST. LOUIS — It felt like a must win for the Billikens, but a must win for what? Confidence? A shot at the postseason? A shot at eliminating the self-doubt that must have crept into the tiny portion of the back of their minds after a stunning loss to Detroit Mercy? Maybe all of the above.
The first half featured lackluster offense at best. 1-8 from three, 5-10 from the line, 7 turnovers, for a total of 22 points. 22 points in a half of college basketball. A regionally televised game that would probably be turned off by any possible recruit that was considering SLU. A first half that featured a seven-minute stretch where SLU didn’t score a bucket.
As for half time adjustments, there appeared to be none. In the second half SLU suffered a 1-12 stretch, and got it taken to them on a 17-4 Western Michigan run that lasted over 7 minutes. A late SLU run of 8-0 shot some hope in the Chaifetz, but that was dashed by a 3 and an offensive rebound given up that led to a put back. Game. Over.
Dejection and resignation.
More and more of the same. We’re at a point where we can just copy and paste the shooting numbers from loss to loss. 3-15 from three, 12-20 from the line, 13 turnovers.
Coach Ford took longer than usual to reach the post-game presser. Sat down, tie taken off, looking a little disheveled, and speaking with a voice that was strained and hoarse.
“There is no excuse…for being out rebounded.” He felt that the game boiled down to three things 3 things, “them making threes us missing threes, them making free throws us missing free throws, and them out rebounding us…We let them play to their strength. That’s not what we do, that’s not what we’re about.”
Jr. Javon Bess seemed to echo these sentiments when talking about the Bills getting out rebounded 40-28. “That can’t happen…that’s not the Billikens.“
It wasn’t that he said it, but it was the way he said it. He was ticked. He saw no excuse. But, he was certain that “It’s gonna come together…it’s only November, that’s the bright side of this…things are gonna change.”
Freshman Jordan Goodwin put it as plain and true as possible, “You can’t have an off night on defense.”
Coach Ford spoke about how such poor offense started to affect their defense. The coaching staff tried to use positive reinforcement over the weekend by showing the team a lot of tape on their great offensive possessions. Half was clips of great fast breaks, the other half was of great half court offensive sets. The tapes showed the team that “all their great fast breaks were created off great defensive plays…all best threes came off of drive and kicks….and (they're) at (their) best when they drive and kick…(they're) not a team that’s gonna hit threes off the dribble.”
Some of the issues in Coach Ford’s mind come from some players trying to do too much to prove what they can do and not letting the game come to them. Plenty of blame to go around, plenty of issues in every aspect of the offense. Again.
So, another terrible loss to a team SLU should beat, and has to beat. What now?
The next game is no small task. They Bills are headed to Butler, a 5-2 Big East team. They have 5 players averaging at least 9 points a game playing in a gym that is always intense, a true home court advantage. This is a game where SLU can earn its stripes, or get their doors blown off.
Who will step up? Who will lead the increase in intensity and urgency that is needed? Will their offensive philosophy change? Or, are the players and coaching staff resigned to “this is who we are”? Another loss and more questions. Is this a rain squall that passes, or storm clouds that sticks around to till March? Only time will tell, and only effort and execution will decide.