St. Louis pulls away from St. Joe's with second-half surge
ST. LOUIS - The Saint Joseph's Hawks made a run at the end of the first half, but couldn't keep up with the Saint Louis Billikens in the second half.
The 18th-ranked Billikens blew open a two-point game at halftime en route to a 70-53 victory Wednesday night at Chaifetz Arena.
"They made layups and we didn't," said St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli, who added that his team simply didn't play well.
The Billikens, who have won 10 straight, led, 29-27, at the break before shutting down the St. Joe's offense in the final 20 minutes. The Hawks (15-11, 6-7 Atlantic 10) shot 32 percent from the floor in the second half; their 32.6 percent for the game was their worst this season.
Martelli and St. Joe's forward Ronald Roberts Jr., who led all scorers with a season-high 25 points, both said the Billikens didn't do anything unexpected on defense.
"They're just really good at it," Roberts said. "They're a great defensive team, and we just didn't hit our shots."
The Hawks, who lost their fourth straight road game and seventh straight to the Billikens, scored the game's first two points. But on their third possession, Halil Kanacevic missed an uncontested layup. St. Louis (22-5, 11-2) ran a fastbreak off the rebound and got a Mike McCall three-pointer at the other end to grab a 4-2 lead and the Billikens didn't trail again.
Neither team shot the ball well early. SLU did not reach double digits in scoring, at 11-8, until more than 8 minutes were gone, at the second media timeout.
A Dwayne Evans steal and subsequent jumper gave the Billikens a 27-17 lead with 4 minutes remaining in the half. St. Joe's scored the next five points and then cut its deficit to two at halftime. The Hawks held the Billikens to only one basket in the final 4 minutes and none in the final 2 minutes of the half.
The Hawks shot only 33 percent from the floor in the first half, while SLU shot 37 percent.
The Billikens opened the second half on 6-0 run before a CJ Aiken dunk a little more than 2 minutes in broke the run. Aiken finished with only four points, but had five blocked shots.
SLU's margin slowly grew, and another McCall trey pushed the lead to 43-32 with 14 minutes remaining. McCall finished with 10 points. A Kwamain Mitchell layup off a McCall steal to put the Billikens up by 13, and they eventually expanded the lead to as much as 18 midway through the second half and up to 20 until the final minute of the game.
Nine Billikens scored in a balanced attack, led by 21 points from Evans, who also had 12 rebounds.
The Hawks host Fordham Saturday.