With 3.8 second left, Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans tossed his inbounds pass to Rob Loe, who drove to the bucket, but his lefty layup was blocked. The Valparaiso defense had its heads turned, allowing Mike McCall Jr. to slip past on the box out, and tipped in the game-winner as the Billikens escaped with a 67-65 road win over Valpo on Saturday.
Saint Louis never trailed on Saturday, but in the second half the Crusaders erased a 12-point deficit. Valpo dug itself in a first half hole, committing 13 turnovers through the first 20 minutes.
Exciting finish aside, was Saturday a concern for Saint Louis?
A week ago, the Billikens held a seven-point edge against No. 12 Wichita State while Shockers guard Ron Baker sat on the bench with foul trouble. When Baker went back in, the Shockers took the lead with 9-0 run, as Cleanthony Early woke up after a 1-for-8 start. Saint Louis had several opportunities to tie or take the lead, but missed all three 3-point tries and missed half its free throws in the final 90 seconds.
Credit to Valparaiso for clawing back into the game. The Crusaders trailed by nine with under six to play, but a 53-31 edge on the glass, which included 20 offensive boards, helped Valpo tie the game at 65 with five seconds to go off a LaVonte Dority layup. Saint Louis had multiple chances to put the game out of reach, but could not convert.
“We had a couple offensive lapses, but our defense was good,” Evans said after the game according to Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Dispatch. “Rebounding got the best of us. But down the stretch, we made the plays we needed to make, so I’ll take it.”
Despite giving up more offensive rebounds in the second half than they pulled down in the entire game, the Billikens were able to take advantage of the biggest second-chance bucket of the night with McCall’s heroics.
After another quality test, Saint Louis — the defending champion in the Atlantic 10 — improves to 8-2. The Billikens host Wofford next Saturday before welcoming an experienced Indiana State team to Chaifetz Arena on Dec. 18 for yet another non-conference challenge.