Rushed Reactions: Saint Louis 65, #15 Butler 61.

Posted by WCarey on February 23rd, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday night’s game between Saint Louis and Butler in Indianapolis. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. These Are Two Teams “High Majors” Should Treat With Caution In March. Both Butler and Saint Louis can really, really play. While each team is very different – Butler is more offensively-oriented and Saint Louis is a team that excels on the defensive end of the court — the common denominator that exists between the two teams is that they both are capable of beating anyone. Butler has shown it is capable of doing so for several years now, but this season’s wins over #1 Indiana and #3 Gonzaga have once again proven the Bulldogs can never be taken lightly. Of Saint Louis’ 21 wins, four have come against ranked opponents — home wins over #15 Butler, #16 New Mexico, and #24 VCU and Friday’s road victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse. With the marquee victories that each squad has already earned this year, it would be wise to believe that both teams could absolutely find a way to beat a well-regarded “high major” when the NCAA Tournament commences.
  2. The Success Of Saint Louis Has To Be One Of The Stories Of The Year in College Basketball. When Rick Majerus stepped away due to a heart issue in August, the team was placed in the hands of assistant coach Jim Crews on an interim basis. The Billikens struggled through their first six games with a record of 3-3, partly due to senior guard Kwamain Mitchell being sidelined with a foot injury. Majerus passed away on December 1 when the team had that 3-3 record and since his passing, the team has won 21 of 23 games. While it might be a tad overzealous to equate the two events, it has to be noted that the way the Billikens have played since the death of their legendary leader would have had him brimming with pride. At 10-2, Saint Louis is all alone in first place in the Atlantic 10 standings and with four winnable games left on its slate (home match-ups with Saint Joseph’s and La Salle and road contests at George Washington and Xavier), a conference championship is certainly in reach, and with the adversity and heartbreak the team has experienced away from the court, that makes Saint Louis one of the stories of the year in college basketball.
  3. Despite Losses In Two Of Its Last Four Games, Butler Fans Should Not Panic. With home losses to Charlotte and Saint Louis in the last nine days, some Butler fans might feel the need to panic a bit as the conference slate winds down. Those fans need to calm down, as there really is not anything substantially wrong with the Bulldogs. When Butler lost to Charlotte on February 13, the Bulldogs were without the services of 6’11″ senior center Andrew Smith, who was out with an abdominal injury. This was a big loss for the Bulldogs because Smith anchors the interior of the defense and is a solid scorer in the low post. With him sidelined, Charlotte was able to have its way with Butler’s interior defenders and rode that to a 71-67 victory. Friday’s loss to Saint Louis was a match-up of two very good teams where one played just a bit better than the other. It was the type of game that if were played 10 times, each team would have a good shot at winning five. The Bulldogs are currently sitting in a tie for second place in a very strong Atlantic 10 and with two weeks left in the season, the team still appears poised to be a legitimate contender in the conference tournament and a team that could turn heads in the NCAAs.
Mike McCall

Mike McCall Was Half of SLU’s Player of the Game Duo

Stars of the Game. Mike McCall Jr. and Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis. McCall Jr. led the Billikens in scoring with 18 points and was part of a suffocating defensive effort aimed at limiting Butler guards Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham. The effort was mostly successful as the Saint Louis defense forced Clarke to turn the ball over six times and held Dunham scoreless in the second half after he had tallied 14 points in the opening 20 minutes. Evans continued his steady play by finishing with 17 points as the team’s key post player. Another thing that was impressive about Evans’ game was that in what was such a physical contest, he only committed one foul in 32 minutes, thus never making his availability a concern.

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Rushed Reactions: #12 Kansas 73, Saint Louis 59

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 21st, 2012

Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent and editor. He filed this report from the CBE Classic Hall of Fame Classic final in Kansas City Tuesday night.

Here are three key takeaways from Kansas’ victory over Saint Louis in the CBE Classic finals:

  1. Jeff Withey: Closer? After controlling the game for much of Tuesday’s championship battle, the Jayhawks allowed Saint Louis to claw back into it whittling a 16-deficit lead down to nine with 3:52 to go. Down the stretch, Kansas sealed the game by repeatedly going inside to Jeff Withey. Over the final 3:29, Withey made two high-percentage shots and hit a pair of free throws. The senior center was more aggressive on offense than he has been all season, backing towards the basket and getting close looks rather than settling for hook shots. While opinions vary on whether it’s just a narrative or a real need, KU fans expect complete teams, and that means having a go-to guy to stop runs and close out victories. For the Jayhawks, that person has generally been a guard in the mold of Mario Chalmers or Sherron Collins, but Withey’s size and experience, combined with an accurate stroke from the line (he hit 11 of 14 free throws Tuesday) make him a strong candidate to fill the role. As if his defensive prowess wasn’t already enough to keep opposing coaches up at night, his aggression on offense may bring it to a whole new level. With a challenging non-conference schedule still remaining for KU (including Colorado, Belmont, Richmond and Ohio State), Bill Self may very well need a trustworthy ball-handler in the closing minutes, so it will be interesting to see whether and how Withey embraces the clutch role moving forward.
  2. Travis Releford Puts On For His City: KU’s fifth-year senior has been a target of criticism throughout his collegiate career due to his ineffectiveness on offense, though there’s no question that he’s an above-average defender. If Releford’s 17-point game against Washington State Monday was an outburst, Tuesday was an explosion. Releford continued his hot shooting with 21 first half points against Saint Louis. While he would add just two in the second half, the extra attention devoted to him opened opportunities for Withey get easy look after easy look. Releford, a Kansas City native, took home tournament MVP honors for his efforts. His 65% clip from the field isn’t sustainable over the rest of the season, but it was a very welcome departure from the ice-cold stretch he endured to start the year. If Releford can settle into a regular complementary scorer to the tune of even ten points per game, the Jayhawks will be tough to beat in March.
  3. The Billikens Go Back To The Drawing Board: After an encouraging win Monday night, Saint Louis fell behind the Jayhawks quickly and struggled to get back into the game. While they made a run late in the second half on the strength of back-to-back threes by Cody Ellis, it wasn’t enough. The Billikens’ success on offense relies on available time and the use of ball screens to create scoring opportunities, and when Jim Crews’ team got down early, it had to adjust, and that only made things worse. Self admitted after the game that his team let up on defense, which allowed the Billikens to shave a few points off KU’s comfortable lead, but SLU wasn’t able to execute their game plan with nearly the amount of success it had against the Aggies. Already down a key player in Kwamain Mitchell, Saint Louis now awaits the fate of guard Jordair Jett, who left the game in the first half with an undisclosed injury and never returned. It’s not even Thanksgiving and the Billikens have been faced with more adversity than many teams will face all season, though its stunning loss to Santa Clara was the kind of adversity a team inflicts on itself. Saint Louis is a tournament team, though, and its top priority should be getting everyone healthy and playing together.
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