Jim Crews

Saint Louis ends statement week with road win against Butler

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Saint Louis left Hinkle Fieldhouse, handing Butler its fourth conference loss — two of them are to the Billikens — taking down the fifteenth-ranked Bulldogs 65-61 on Friday night to stay in first place in Atlantic 10 standings.

The Billikens, behind hot shooting, started the second half with a 15-4 run, erasing a five-point halftime deficit. The Billikens would quickly take a seven-point lead. Although, Saint Louis never gave the lead back when it took a 37-36 lead with 17:21 to play, Butler continued to hang around.

However, the Bulldogs hurt themselves from ever regaining the lead. With 6:06  to go Roosevelt Jones split a pair of free throws, instead of the game being down one, Butler trailed 56-54. Forty seconds later, Jones converted on a layup and drew the foul. He missed the old-fashion 3-point play and Butler trailed 57-56 instead of being tied.

With 3:32 left, Jones made up for previous missed foul shots, by stroking a pair, making it 59-58. Saint. Louis was in a drought, and didn’t score for almost two and a half minutes, however, Butler couldn’t take the lead despite several opportunities. Kameron Woods missed a pair of free throws and Rotnei Clarke turned the ball over.

Neither team shot well from the line, with Butler going 15-for-26 and Saint Louis going one worse 14-for-26. The Bulldogs coughed the ball over 14 times, as opposed to the Billikens’ four.

Saint Louis goes into the weekend after making a statement to the rest of the Atlantic 10 this week. In a span of four days, the Billikens topped VCU, forcing more turnovers than Shaka Smart’s vaunted “Havoc” defense. Friday, Saint Louis buckled down and got out of a five-point hole, then countered every time Butler threatened. The Billikens have been tough all year, especially following the death of legendary coach Rick Majerus to begin December.

Since then, Saint Louis has honored the memory of Majerus, winning 18 of the last 20 games, taking sole possession of first place in the A10. In the toughest week of the season, Jim Crews and Co. rose to the occasion.

Saint Louis has atop the conference standings by a game over VCU with four games to go. A pair of wins over ranked opponents this week, improves the Billikens record against the top-25 this year to 4-1. Jim Crews and Co. are proving to be a tough out come March.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.