Rushed Reactions: #18 Saint Louis 66, George Washington 58Posted by IRenko on March 2nd, 2013
I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Saint Louis and George Washington. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three key takeaways:
- Saint Louis is Tough In More Ways Than One — The Bilikens have strong guards and wings who force their way to the basket, they body up their opponent on defense, and they generally control their defensive glass. But more than that, they’re mentally tough. That should be obvious, given the season they’ve put together after losing Rick Majerus in December. But they’ve shown it on the court in their past two road games as well, both times trailing in the second-half before mounting a rally to take control, first against Butler and today at GW. After leading by eight early in the second half, they fell behind 48-45 with 7:12 to play. But they didn’t panic, instead reeling off 10 straight points to take a seven-point lead with 4:20 left, from which point they glided to victory. The Bilikens carry themselves with a quiet confidence that will serve them well in March.
- The Bilikens Know How To Beat You From the Line — One reason that Saint Louis is so tough at the end of games is their ability to get to the free throw line. That was all the difference in this game, as they converted 21-of-24, including a perfect 8-of-8 during the crucial 10-0 run that decided the game. GW, meanwhile, managed to shoot just 8-of-15 from the charity stripe. As a result, although the Colonials shot a better field goal percentage in the second half, they were outscored by two points. The Bilikens’ tendency to pound the ball inside and draw contact gives them a particular advantage late in games when they can get into the bonus.
- Kevin Larsen Could be a Contender — If Mike Lonergan is going to take GW back to the NCAA Tournament in the coming years, Larsen is going to be a big part of it. The freshman center from Copenhagen has a big body, good offensive skills, and an understanding of how to play within the team concept. He’s often struggled to put it all together on the court, but there is no doubt that he’s getting there. After setting a career-high at Richmond in his last game (16 points), he added 14 against Saint Louis and has now scored in double-digits in 7 of his last 10 games. Larsen does a nice job of establishing position in the post, has good footwork, and often clears himself for a good look. If he can improve his ability to finish, he could be a centerpiece of GW’s offense over the next three years.
Star(s) of the Game: Dwayne Evans and Kwamain Mitchell. Saint Louis has a balanced offense that doesn’t rely too heavily on any single player. But when the chips are down, these two are the most likely to come through, and they did today. With their team struggling against GW’s 1-3-1 zone in the second half, the pair took over, Mitchell driving the ball to the basket and Evans fighting his way to the hoop and free throw line underneath. They finished with 40 points combined, 29 of which came in the second half.
Sights and Sounds: The GW fans and student section made a decent showing, but it’s clear that Saint Louis has yet to enter the casual fan’s consciousness in the way that their A-10 competitors, Butler and VCU, have. Sure, a Final Four trip will earn you a high degree of notoriety on the road, but I’m betting that in the next couple years, the Bilikens will be drawing bigger road crowds than they have in the past.
Quotable: “Maybe I should have gotten a technical, try to change the momentum and get some calls.” — GW head coach Mike Lonergan, lamenting the imbalance in foul calls in the second half.
Wildcard: Coming into the game, Saint Louis was averaging 11 turnovers and a conference-leading 15.5 percent turnover rate in A-10 play. But they coughed it up 16 times against GW’s tough defense, a roughly 25 percent turnover rate. It was enough to keep the Colonials in the game, until the Bilikens’ late run.
What’s next: Saint Louis will be gunning for their first A-10 championship when they travel to Xavier and host La Salle in the final two games of the season. The Bilikens are up a game on VCU, so one win will clinch a share of the title, and two will win it outright. GW has a tough trip to La Salle on Wednesday before returning home for the season-closer against Dayton. They’ll need to win both to finish at .500 in conference play.