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

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: