TSX: SLU Loses At Duquesne

Brian Conklin (SLU photo)

No matter how good Saint Louis' defense is, it won't do the Billikens much good if they can't score.

SLU went more than 14 minutes between baskets Wednesday night in a 67-45 loss to Duquesne, going from a four-point lead late in the first half to a 19-point deficit midway through the second.

The Billikens have been struggling to make 3-point shots, dreadful at the free-throw line (they hit just five of 12 Wednesday) and amid their 17-of-46 performance against the Dukes, they missed lots of layups and 2-footers.

Add to that another problem: silly turnovers. As SLU fell behind against Duquesne, the players seemed to react by trying daring passes through traffic that were destined to fail.

"Lackadaisical plays," forward Brian Conklin said. "Boneheaded plays."

SLU's defense was good for much of the game, but the offense's problems may be too severe for even the best defense to overcome.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Now that the university has reinstated Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed, who missed the first semester after being suspended for violating the school's code of conduct, the question is whether Mitchell will play this season.

Reed definitely won't play; while he was readmitted to the school, he is suspended from the athletic department until he can demonstrate he can behave well on and off the court. Mitchell's situation is different.

Whether or not he plays could be determined by how soon the NCAA grants him the necessary waiver. Since Mitchell missed a semester, SLU has to petition the NCAA to get him back to his status at the start of last semester, when he was eligible. How long that will take is a mystery, subject to how much the NCAA has to get to ahead of it.

If Mitchell's situation is resolved quickly, he may choose to play this season. The longer it takes, and the fewer games that remain to be played, the more likely it is he sits out this season.

If he does choose to play, it would be a big gain for SLU, which could use an experienced ball-handler and floor leader. A year ago, Mitchell's ability to handle the press was one of the main factors in SLU winning at Duquesne. Mitchell is back on the practice court, and acting coach Porter Moser said freshman guards Mike McCall and Jordair Jett are already benefiting from his experience.

NOTES, QUOTES

-- Saint Louis committed 20 turnovers on Jan. 12 in a 67-45 loss to Duquesne, and freshman G Jordair Jett had seven of them. Jett had five in the first half, which got him a spot on the bench at the start of the second half. Junior G Kyle Cassity became the team's primary ball-handler, even though he's not a point guard. Cassity didn't commit a turnover in 35 minutes of action.

-- The loss to Duquesne was SLU's sixth in a row, the school's longest losing streak since it lost eight in a row at the end of the 1991-92 season. That year is also the last time SLU relied heavily on four freshmen.

-- Assistant coach Porter Moser continues to sit in for coach Rick Majerus, who is recovering from a leg infection that was caused when one of his players collided with him. Moser, who also had to take over when the Billikens were in Cancun in December and Majerus was sidelined by food poisoning, had been on the bench for the last two games through Jan. 9. He will continue to lead the team in the Jan. 12 game at Duquesne.

Moser is well-respected by the Saint Louis players.

"Coach refers to him all the time as a co-coach," guard Paul Eckerle told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If he could give him the title of co-head coach, he probably would."

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Freshmen the Billikens are relying on this season (Mike McCall and Jordair Jett in the backcourt and Dwayne Evans and Rob Loe up front).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a bad experience, but a lot of people have it a lot worse than I have it. You can't throw a pity party for yourself. Most of life is dealing with adversity. I've always known that." -- Coach Rick Majerus, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on his absence while battling a leg infection.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME:

-- vs. St. Joseph's, Jan. 15

KEY MATCHUPS: The two teams rank near the bottom of the conference in scoring (St. Joseph's was 12th, Saint Louis 14th through Jan. 9), and both teams struggle on the boards as well, so this looks to be a battle of futility. The Hawks have only two seniors on their roster, the Billikens none. Which team's youngsters will come through?

FUTURES MARKET: The Billikens need to get their shooting eye back on the perimeter. They were 0-for-7 on 3-point tries in their loss to the Owls after entering the game hitting 35.3 percent from behind the arc in their first 14 games.

PLAYER NOTES

-- Sophomore F Cody Ellis had 10 points and five rebounds, but he wasn't much of a factor in the second half against Duquesne. He scored all his points in the first half and was 0-for-4 from the field in the second half. His 4-for-12 performance means he's made just eight of his past 33 shots.

-- Junior F Brian Conklin recorded a double-double in the loss to Temple, scoring 11 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.

-- Freshman G Mike McCall was 5-for-9 from the field in the loss to the Owls but missed his only two attempts from 3-point range. He was 16-for-39 from behind the arc through Jan. 9.

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