No. 5 seed George Washington arrived in Brooklyn for the Atlantic 10 tournament knowing that they had some work to do in regards to earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. Thursday afternoon Mike Lonergan’s Colonials took the first step in that quest, as they took care of No. 12 Saint Louis by the final score of 73-65.
Sophomore forward Yuta Watanabe led the way offensively with 19 points, and fellow forward Tyler Cavanaugh added 13 points and eight rebounds. Guard Joe McDonald performed well as the distributor for the Colonials, as he dished out ten assists with just one turnover and scored nine points. The key for George Washington was their forcing of 17 Saint Louis turnovers, keeping the Billikens off-balance with their use of both man and 1-3-1 zone looks.
Jermaine Bishop led three Billikens in double figures with 15 points. Shortly after the game’s conclusion, the school announced that head coach Jim Crews had been relieved of his duties.
Next up for George Washington is No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s in Friday’s quarterfinal round, which can be seen on NBCSN.
Shortly after the team’s loss to George Washington in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, Saint Louis AD Chris May announced that head coach Jim Crews would not be retained.
Crews was named interim head coach in place of the late Rick Majerus just before the start of the 2012-13 season, and he led that team to 28 wins and the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles. The interim tag was then removed, and in 2013-14 the Billikens won 27 games and a second consecutive Atlantic 10 regular season title.
But with many of the key contributors from those teams moving on, including guard Jordair Jett and forward Dwayne Evans, Crews’ program couldn’t build on the momentum gained in those two seasons. Over the last two years SLU’s posted a record of 22-42, winning 11 games in both campaigns. That downturn was cited by May as the reason for the move in the release sent out by the school Thursday afternoon.
This year’s team had just one scholarship senior, guard Achraf Yacoubou, who was the team’s leading scorer this season with an average of 11.2 points per game.
Sunday afternoon St. Bonaventure hosted Saint Louis in a game that was critical for the Bonnies’ postseason hopes. Mark Schmidt’s team has some work to do to get onto the NCAA tournament bubble, and avoiding bad losses is part of the equation. The Bonnies struggled for much of the game with the Billikens, but they managed to come back and win 65-62 on a Jaylen Adams three as time expired.
Adams finished the game with a team-high 19 points, with Marcus Posley adding 15 points and forward Dion Wright posting a double-double of 14 points and ten rebounds. Jermaine Bishop led the Billikens with 17 points and Davell Roby added 12 off the bench.
George Mason ended its four-game losing streak in impressive fashion Sunday afternoon, as they scored a season-high 92 points in their 13-point win at Saint Louis on NBC Sports Network.
Guard Marquise Moore led the way for the Patriots, scoring 22 points while also accounting for ten rebounds and three assists. Five George Mason players scored in double figures, and Dave Paulsen’s team scored an average of 1.28 points per possession in their best offensive performance of the season to date.
Mike Crawford led Saint Louis, which is now also 1-4 in Atlantic 10 play, with 22 points. The Billikens hadn’t scored 75 or more points in a game since their win over Alabama A&M December 12, and they’ve now lost eight of their last nine games.
Still playing without injured forward Hassan Martin (ankle), Rhode Island opened Atlantic 10 play at home against a Saint Louis team that has struggled for much of the season. That remained the case for the visiting Billikens at the Ryan Center, as URI rolled to an 85-57 victory on NBCSN.
Five Rams scored 12 points or more with guard Four McGlynn leading the way with 16. URI shot 50 percent from the field and 12-for-27 from three while limiting Saint Louis to 40 percent shooting. SLU shot just 3-for-15 from three, with Miles Reynolds and Achraf Yacoubou scoring 12 points apiece to lead the way.
After winning the Atlantic 10 with a senior-laden rotation in 2014 the Saint Louis Billikens weren’t as successful last season, going 11-21 overall and finishing last in the conference with a 3-15 record. With their six freshmen of a season ago now being sophomores, the hope for the Billikens is that they can take a step forward and be a more formidable team in the A-10 in 2015-16.
Jim Crews’ team will have a bit of a head start on the upcoming season, as the program announced Friday its plans for a three-game trip to The Bahamas scheduled for next month. Saint Louis, per NCAA rules, will have ten practices before leaving for Atlantis August 7, and they’ll play against local all-star teams August 8, 10 and 11 before returning home.
With nine underclassmen (six sophomores and three freshmen) and just one senior (Achraf Yacoubou) on the roster, these early practices and games could help SLU as it prepares for the 2015-16 season. It’s one thing to be told how to run sets and what the coaching staff expects, but being able to apply those summer lessons in game situations should help the young players moving forward.
SLU’s greatest struggles came on the offensive end of the floor last season, as they ranked at or near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in scoring (last), field goal percentage (13th) and offensive efficiency (last). If Saint Louis is to be a better team in 2015-16 they’ll have to be better offensively, and given the fact that the A-10 should be better than it was a season ago that’s no easy task.
The Billikens’ hope that these practices and exhibitions will help them in that regard.