With nod to the left and that Kentucky drawl he said, “This is a blue-collar team for a blue-collar city.” That’s what Billikens’ coach Travis Ford stated after Saturday’s 75-65 win over A-10 rival Dayton. A win the team needed, again.

This win had a different feel. Just after the buzzer sounded and the handshake line ended, Coach Ford took to the mic to address the entire crowd. To thank them. To tell them how hard the team was working. And that his team of fine young men were doing it for the city of St. Louis.

This coming after the last home game before all appeals into the Title IX investigation are heard and decided. This coming after his up and down team looked for the 11th time this season like a team that could win the A-10 and be a top 6 seed in March. One game after a game where they looked like a team that could lose every game for the rest of the season.

SLU was able to build a lead and put away Dayton with what Ford described as an “extremely physical grind it out game…by both teams.” Adding “It was no place to be soft in that paint tonight.”

This game had it all. Powerful Karl Malone like dunks from Hasahn French, silky smooth mid-range j’s from Javon Bess on his way to a second straight 20-point game, a Vinnie Johnson like spark off the bench from Jalen Johnson, an opposing coach screaming at the officials and getting warned 5 minutes in to “cut it out,” and hammered drunk alumni getting tossed at the half for being, well, absolute idiots. Not bad for a 3pm tip on a beautiful Saturday in the STL.

In the end, the win pushed SLU back to .500 yet again and to the middle of the Atlantic 10 pack at 4-5. During the post-game presser Javon Bess noted that the team has “gotta close this out strong” so they can “get a good seed” in the Conference tourney. Senior Davell Roby was quick to add, “but, it’s one game at a time….we ain’t looking forward.”

11-11 and 4-5 with 9 regular season games remaining. The Billikens need to close at the worst 6-3 for even a chance at the NIT. If they close in the same up and down .500 manner in which they’ve played thus far, then well, it’ll be an early start to spring.

Up next is a Wednesday night game at St. Joe’s with a chance to pull to .500 in conference play. Which Billikens team will show up? Only time will tell.