SLU’s late rally against New Mexico falls just short

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Saint Louis University Billikens dropped to 12-2 Saturday night with a 64-60 loss to the New Mexico Lobos in The Pit.

SLU forward Brian Conklin accounted for 20 points to lead all scorers. Conklin also pulled down nine rebounds. Kwamain Mitchell (13) and Cody Ellis (10) also scored in double figures for the Bills, who shot 43.4% from the field.

The Billikens led 21-14 midway through the first half, but the Lobos quickly erased that margin with a 12-2 run, sparked by five consecutive trips to the foul line. New Mexico hit 12 of 19 free throw attempts in the first half to jump out to a 31-29 halftime lead.

Rick Majerus’s battled back in the second half, but the Lobos hit a 3-pointer to move ahead for good with 7:10 left in the game.

SLU had an opportunity to tie the game at 62 in the final seconds after Jordair Jett pulled down Ellis’s missed free throw attempt, but he was unable to hit the layup, sending New Mexico to its tenth consecutive victory.

The Billikens will now travel to Dayton, Ohio to open up conference play against the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7 pm.

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2011 In Review: Ten Most Memorable St. Louis Sports Moments (Part 2)

Here are my top five most memorable St. Louis sports moments from 2011. You can check out moments 10-6 here.

Click each image for a video clip of each moment.

Continue reading

SLU improves to 11-1 with 70-46 victory over Arkansas State

The Saint Louis University Billikens improved to 11-1 on the season with a 70-46 victory over Arkansas State at Chaifetz Arena Thursday night.

SLU will face off against Texas Southern from the Southwestern Athletic Conference on Tuesday before traveling to New Mexico to close out their non-conference schedule. Tip-off for Tuesday night’s game is set for 7 o’clock.

A more detailed recap of the Billikens victory over ARST will be available once final stats from the game are posted. 

Breaking Down Tonight’s Braggin’ Rights Match-up

The no. 8 Missouri Tigers will face their toughest opponent of the year tonight when they tip-off against the no. 25 Illinois Fightin’ Illini at Scottrade Center in Saint Louis. Here is a quick breakdown of tonight’s match-up.

TOP PERFORMER: 

Mizzou: Marcus Denmon

While Mizzou truly relies on almost its entire roster to be successful, senior guard Marcus Denmon is without a doubt the team’s most valuable player. He averages nearly 20 points per game and has become one of the team’s most reliable weapons on offense. Denmon’s performance this season has been bolstered by fellow senior Kim English, who has bounced back nicely from a disappointing junior season. 

Illinois: DJ Richardson

DJ Richardson has been the catalyst for this Illinois offense. He leads the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game and has been solid from beyond the arc over his past three games. With U of I’s lack of production off the bench, Richardson has been forced to play nearly the entire 40 minutes of every game this season, but has no problem continuing to produce at a high level. 

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Mizzou: Ricardo Ratliffe

The Tigers will rely heavily on Ricardo Ratliffe tonight to maintain a presence on the block against Illinois. He is one of the Big 12’s best shooters from the floor (.77 FG%), but will face his biggest challenge of the year tonight in Myers Leonard. It will be interesting to see how Ratliffe responds to this adversity and if he is able to find a way to remain effective against Illinois’ bigs.

Illinois: Myers Leonard

At 7’1, Myers Leonard could have a big game tonight against Missouri. His size could allow him to single-handedly dominate the boards. Even if Illinois is having an off-night shooting the ball, Leonard could keep them in the game with his size and ability to consistently score points at a high rate (13.3 PPG).

KEYS TO VICTORY:

Mizzou:

1. Tighten up the perimeter defense: The biggest flaw in Missouri’s defense is their tendency to leave players wide open around the arc. I think this problem stems from the Mizzou defense trying to compensate for their lack of size by collapsing the defense towards the basket. This problem was especially noticeable against Villanova (a team that had a significant height advantage over Missouri), when the Wildcats were able to hang in there, solely because of their hot 3-point shooters.

Tonight, the Tigers will be faced with two of the better big men they have faced all year in Sam Maniscalco and Meyers Leonard. Despite this, they must stay disciplined and not allow a player like DJ Richardson to get open looks from 3-point land, because he has the ability to cripple Mizzou’s chances if he finds his stroke early on.

2. Stick to the plan on offense: I am a huge fan of Frank Haith’s offense. He finally has these guys running plays inside the half-court offense and consistently finding open looks. Bottom line: the Missouri Tigers rarely take a bad shot on offense.

Illinois believes they can win if they dictate the tempo and force Mizzou into a half-court offense. Unlike his predecessor Mike Anderson, however, Frank Haith appears to have a list of set plays for his players to run when forced into a half-court set. The Tigers must stick to his game plan if and when the Illini start to dictate the pace of the game.

Another key to Mizzou’s offense has been a willingness to drive towards the basket. Players like Denmon, English, and Michael Dixon must remain aggressive in attacking the basket and not settle for bad-angled jump shots. This is an area where Missouri could use their smaller players to their advantage in trying to draw fouls against Leonard and Maniscalco.

3. Force Bruce Weber to turn to his bench early: The Illini bench was shut out against Cornell and mustered just three points against Cornell. Missouri should have no problem forcing U of I to use its subs, but the sooner they can force Weber’s hand, the better.

Illinois:

1. Dictate the pace of the game: You are going to hear this at least a dozen times over the course of the game, but Illinois must dictate the pace of the game from the start. They are not built to keep up with Mizzou’s frenetic pace, especially with their serious lack of depth.

2. Attack Missouri’s bigs: Mizzou is not a big team. They will rely heavily on Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore to pull down rebounds and establish a presence down low. However, those two players are prone to getting into foul trouble rather quickly, meaning that the Illini could completely dominate the boards if they are able to get those two players into foul trouble early. If Mizzou’s offense is firing on all-cylinders from the opening tip, that may be the only way U of I keeps this game from becoming a blow-out by halftime.

3. Remain patient on offense: As I mentioned earlier, Missouri’s defense is prone to giving up a lot of open looks from 3-point land. Teams have found a lot of success this year by getting the ball inside to draw the Tiger defenders, before kicking it out for an easy 3-point attempt. This may sound elementary, but it nearly proved to be Mizzou’s undoing against Villanova.

FINAL WORD:

Mizzou should have no problem dominating this game. For what the Tigers’ lack in size, they make up for in depth and shooting. I predict a 10-point victory for the ‘gers.

 

The Full Court Press: Braggin’ Rights Week

This is the first installment of The Full Court Press for the 2011-2012 season and I’d like to think we have a solid show.

Vahe Gregorian of the Saint Louis Post Dispatch returns to give his take on the Missouri basketball team’s hot start to the season. Vahe also gives some insight as to what has caused Kim English’s rebound from last season’s let down, as well as some potential behind the scenes issues that took place under Mike Anderson.

From the Illinois side, Austin Kim of WCIA in Central Illinois joins the show to talk about the Fighting Illini and what challenges they could present to Mizzou. Austin graduated from the University of Missouri and covered the Tiger basketball team last season, so he brings a unique perspective to the show.

This is the first time we have had a non-Mizzou guest on the show, so I hope you enjoy.

Full Court Press-Braggin Rights Week