Billikens seek turnaround in showdown with Minutemen
Amherst, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 17th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens will try to put an end to their three-game losing streak as the regular season comes to a close on Sunday afternoon with an Atlantic 10 Conference matchup with the Massachusetts Minutemen at the Mullins Center.
The Billikens' status as one of the nation's best teams has been put into question with their three-game slide, most recently falling at home to Dayton on Wednesday, 72-67. They are still in the midst of an outstanding 25-5 campaign, however, and at 12-3 in the A-10 can still clinch the regular-season conference title with a victory in this matchup.
UMass is in the midst of a stellar season as well, as it has gone 23-6 overall, 10-5 in league action and 11-1 on its home floor. The Minutemen claimed a 78-74 road victory over Duquesne on Wednesday for their fourth win in the past five games.
In regards to the all-time series, Saint Louis leads, 8-4, although UMass is 3-1 in games played in Amherst.
Saint Louis held a lead as large as 10 early in the second half against Dayton in its most recent bout but slowly lost control of the game down the stretch on its way to the five-point setback. The squad was outshot from the field, 47.2 percent to 42.6 percent, made just 6-of-22 from 3-point range and lost the rebounding battle, 36-30. Dwayne Evans was stellar despite the loss with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Mike McCall Jr. chipped in 10 points.
Although the Billikens clearly haven't played up to expectations in recent weeks, they are still in the midst of a strong all-around campaign, as they shoot 44.2 percent from the field for 70.3 ppg while allowing a mere 60.9 ppg on 39.5 percent shooting while also boasting positive margins in terms of rebounding (+1.7) and turnovers (+1.8). Dwayne Evans leads the team in both scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg), Jordair Jett tallies 13.7 ppg and 4.7 apg, and both players shoot an identical 49.3 percent from the field. Rob Loe (10.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and McCall (9.5 ppg) have also been solid.
The Minutemen fell victim to a 10-0 Duquesne run late in the second half of their latest contest to fall behind by two with just four minutes remaining, but they quickly rebounded and Trey Davis' 3-pointer with 1:43 left proved to be the game winner. They shot 45 percent from the field on the evening, including 10-of-25 from beyond the arc, and they also benefited from winning the turnover battle, 13-9. Davis paced five teammates in double figures with 20 points off the bench to go with eight assists. Chaz Williams was also stellar from the backcourt with 17 points and six assists, Maxie Esho posted and double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Raphiael Putney and Sampson Carter netted 12 and 11 points, respectively.
UMass has grown accustomed to high-scoring outputs this season, as it shoots 46.7 percent from the field for 76.9 ppg, which has been good enough to support a modest scoring defense (70.8 ppg). Williams shoots just 39.9 percent from the field for his 15.7 ppg but he's one of the nation's top distributors with 7.1 apg. Cady Lalanne mans the paint with 12.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 2.4 bpg, while Carter, Davis, Putney, Derrick Gordon and Esho all put up between 10.8 and 8.2 ppg to round out the balanced squad.