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