Then the Billikens lost a four-point lead against visiting Bowling Green and lost the game, 67-61, before a crowd of 6,754 at Chaifetz Arena.
“I think the guys were taken back,” said SLU associate head coach Porter Moser, who took over the coaching duties when Majerus left. They were scared a little. There was a laceration with Coach and they saw the blood coming out. I think they were a little scared. … Obviously we never recovered. Anybody watching the game knows that we never recovered. We kind of played scared and tentative and like their minds were somewhere else that last 10 minutes of the game.”
It was the third consecutive loss for Saint Louis (5-8) and the sixth in eight games. Bowling Green (5-9) has now won four straight games against the Billikens, including a 59-50 win at home on Jan. 2, 2010.
Things were looking up early in the second half for SLU after erasing a two-point halftime deficit and taking a 37-33 lead with junior forward Brian Conklin (career-high 22 points) leading the way.
With 14 minutes and 11 seconds remaining, redshirt junior guard Paul Eckerle scrambled for a loose ball and fell into Majerus and knocked the coach into the scorer’s table.
“Someone hit his leg, I think it was Paul might have hit his leg when he dove, and it started to bleed and (Majerus) was just worried about how much it was bleeding,” Conklin said.
Moments later, with Saint Louis leading by four points, Majerus walked off the floor to have his leg looked at and Moser stepped in. Majerus, who also missed SLU’s last game in Cancun because of an illness, never returned.
And the Billikens, seemingly, never really recovered.
Bowling Green scored 10 consecutive points before SLU scored again and after the Billikens took a brief lead later at 44-43, they went a stretch of nine minutes without a field goal that helped the visiting Falcons establish a 10-point lead with 3 minutes remaining.
“We just turned the ball over way too much there toward the end,” Conklin said. “That has nothing to do with Coach. That’s just us turning the ball over. Defensively, that’s just us. We did the same stuff when Coach was there than when he wasn’t, but then we weren’t executing the right way. That has nothing to do with Coach Majerus being there.”
Bowling Green controlled the game inside, outscoring SLU 42-18 in points in the paint. A’uston Calhoun, a 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore, came off the bench to score 14 of his 20 points in the second half.
Saint Louis, which got 13 points from sophomore forward Cody Ellis in his third start of the season, struggled shooting the ball.
The Billikens made a season-low 37 percent of their shots from the field (17 of 46) and made just 21.1 percent from 3-point range (four of 19). SLU’s four guards — Kyle Cassity, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett and Eckerle — combined to shoot 18.1 percent (four of 22) from the field.
“It’s always tough to lose, especially at home,” Ellis said. “We thought we were pretty prepared for this game. Obviously we have Dayton next. So we have to go back to practice and put in a lot more work.”
The Billikens host Dayton on Wednesday night to open the Atlantic 10 Conference season. The Flyers are 12-3 and have won five straight games after beating New Mexico 76-73 in two overtimes on Saturday.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” Moser said. “We came back from Christmas. I thought we’ve had good practices. We had a tough travel coming back from Cancun. Got the guys to go home. We really had this game to gear up going into conference, so we have to regroup. Obviously Dayton is one of the upper level teams in the league, very athletic, so we definitely have to regroup.”