For the second straight game, St. Bonaventure almost had enough to end the school's lengthy drought against Top 25 teams.
Maybe next time.
"It's frustrating to get close and we're not here for moral victories," coach Mark Schmidt said after Saint Louis held on for a 66-60 victory on Wednesday night. "But at the same time I think it gives our guys confidence they can play with the top teams in the country at their place."
Dwayne Evans scored 18 points and Rob Loe had 11 rebounds for Saint Louis, which won its first game since breaking into the Top 25 for the first time this season.
St. Bonaventure had a 13-point second-half lead before fading its last time out at No. 19 Massachusetts, and kept it close throughout. The largest deficit was nine points with about seven minutes to go.
"We didn't execute offensively and defensively down the stretch, and it was like we were never really in control of this whole game," guard Matthew Wright said. "We just find ourselves always in an uphill battle."
St. Bonaventure faced consecutive ranked opponents for the first time since Jan. 22-27, 1996, losses to Virginia Tech and top-ranked Massachusetts. The Bonnies have lost 24 in a row to Top 25 teams since beating No. 20 Temple in 2000.
The Bonnies' next chance likely will be a rematch at home against Massachusetts Jan. 29.
Jordair Jett scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half for Saint Louis (16-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10), which has won 10 in a row. The start is the school's best since the 1993-94 team was 19-1.
"They deserve their ranking," Wright said. "They're definitely a great team. They've always been since my tenure here."
Wright had 17 points for St. Bonaventure (11-6, 1-2), which was in foul trouble early and ended with four players drawing four fouls apiece. Dion Wright added 16 points off the bench.
The Billikens are 3-0 in conference play for the first time since winning the first three in the Mid-Continent Conference in 1989-90.
Jordan Gathers' 3-pointer capped an 8-0 run that put the visitors up 47-45 lead near the midpoint of the second half. The Billikens outscored St. Bonaventure 12-1 the next three minutes including two 3-pointers by Mike Crawford for a nine-point cushion and the lead was at least five the rest of the way.
"We were always catching up," Schmidt said. "At times, you get worn out a little bit."
The Bonnies' thin bench was tested before the break with Marquise Simmons and sub Dion Wright each saddled with three fouls and two others with two each. Youssou Ndoye drew his third foul in the opening minute of the second half.
"We had some foul trouble inside," Schmidt said. "It's part of the game. You always want to win the backboard and I think they did a really good job."
Jett, the A-10 player of the week, made just one of his first seven shots and was held to five points in the first half. Saint Louis missed all seven 3-point attempts plus a handful of blown layups.
Saint Louis leads the series 11-4 and has won four of the last five.