Billikens Chase Sloppy First Half with Strong Second Half to Top George Washington

Dwayne Evans' double-double led the Billikens to a 78-56 victory over George Washington. - Image via
Dwayne Evans' double-double led the Billikens to a 78-56 victory over George Washington.

The Billikens, up two points over George Washington with a few minutes left in the first half, were knee deep in an uptempo slop and the boys in the front couple rows of the student section were flush with pride.

After all, finals and term papers were mercifully over and they were humming along through one the easier weekends of the winter, when those back in town can swap holiday stories and get back into the rhythms of college life.

A GW player was called for an unremarkable foul. Soon after, a sub replaced him. One of the boys sprung into action. He took a step forward and leaned his upper body in the direction of the visitors' bench.

"Hey!" he screamed, attempting to get the attention of GW's head coach. "He's an all-star! Get it? 'Cause he sucks!"

Five seconds of silence from the student section, as those nearby pondered the punch-line.

"Yeah, you tell him, Zach," deadpanned a sarcastic young man a few seats over. Laughs all around.

This year's version of George Washington Colonials men's basketball is not filled with all-start players. They entered the contest 5-9, having lost eight of their previous ten games. While the team possesses length and athleticism-- certainly enough to pull an A-10 up set out of their back pocket at some point this season-- their ability to keep the first half close was more a result of SLU's missed lay-ups and uncharacteristically unsound defense. The pace of the first half was faster than that of most games at Chaifetz and the Bills, coming off a loss in their conference opener at Dayton on Wednesday, seemed to be pressing for the crisp surges that have their season so far.

"They try to style lay-ups. It's the worst thing about TV." Coach Rick Majerus said after the game. "They can't help themselves. Everybody wants to do a degree of difficulty and wants to be cool. It's endemic to college ball and even pro ball."

But the surge would come early in the second half, a 15-3 stretch fueled by a smothering defense that contested every shot and offensive rebounds that led to second chance points, of which the Billikens outscored their opponents 17-2. SLU won the game 78-56, 42 of their points coming from the paint. They held GW to 21 points in the second half.

"I thought they really manned up," said Majerus.

Sophomore forward Dwayne Evans pulled down seven of the teams sixteen offensive boards, including three near the start of the second half that spurred the decisive run. It was one of his best games of the season, an 11 rebound 19 point effort in which he shot 8-10 from the field. He also accounted for the game's most memorable place: after a defensive rebound late in the first half, he took the ball coast-to-coast, drove into a defender at the elbow, and flicked up a moonshot from the low baseline while falling out of bounds. The ball his the front corner of the top of the backboard then dropped in through the net, helping the Billikens extend their lead to seven at halftime.

"I had no idea what happened," he said. "I didn't even see it. I just turned around and I saw the ball go through the hoop. I'll take it."

With a chuckle and a smirk, he added, "I was just trying to make Sports Center."

Evans picked a good night for his standout performance. Leading scorer Brian Conklin coughed up his worst offensive output of the season, shooting 1-9 and scoring 6 points, which is less than half of his yearly average. But junior guard Kwamain Mitchell scored 15 points, on 6-9 shooting, and sophomore guard Jordair Jett chipped in 10 off the bench.

The win made SLU 13-3 and evened their A-10 record at 1-1. They easily lead the conference in scoring defense, allowing around 55 points a game. The 22 point win over the Colonials buffered their conference best 15 point-per-game average scoring margin.

"We're not 100 percent where we need to be," said junior forward Cody Ellis. "First half was a little sloppy. Missed some shots, didn't play D as well as we should. Our defense is what helps our offense. We get stops and it leads into our offense."

The real test comes Wednesday, when Temple comes to town.

For more on St. Louis politics, sports, hip-hop and miscellaneous social issues, follow @albertsamaha on Twitter.

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