The Billikens, who hadn’t scored 67 points since a Dec. 23 loss against Southern Miss in Cancun, shot just 20 for 60 (33.3 percent), but managed to outplay the Hawks in every other aspect of the game.
The Bills held an 18-9 advantage on the offensive glass and turned the ball over just five times compared to 14 for the Hawks. SLU also shot 17 more free throws than visiting St. Joe’s.
“We defended well,” coach Rick Majerus said. “The guys played their hearts out. They played with great hustle and great intensity.”
Majerus, who had missed the team’s last three games due to an infection, rejoined the squad on the sidelines.
“I feel OK,” Majerus said. “I feel good.”
The Billikens shot just 34 percent in the first half, but maintained a 29-19 lead at halftime. The Hawks mustered up just seven field goals on their way to a meager 31 percent from the field in the first frame.
In the second half, the Billikens continued to clamp down the pressure and the youthful visitors never came within serious striking distance.
Freshman forward Dwayne Evans provided a much-needed boost for SLU, with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
“Dwayne’s a really good athlete,” Majerus said. “He can be a real good player. He’s had to play a lot of different positions, and I think he did a good job of that.”
Sophomore forward Cory Remekun added 12 points and five rebounds in his best performance of the season.
“I feel like it’s a step in the right direction for me,” Remekun said. “I’m playing with more energy instead of just loafing around. I feel good about it.”
Along with Majerus’ return, the Billikens added yet another familiar face to the bench. In his return to Chaifetz Arena, junior guard Kwamain Mitchell was out with the team warming up before the game. He has not yet been cleared by the NCAA and could not participate in the game.
“It’s good to have him back,” junior guard Kyle Cassity said. “It’s a lift to see him on the sidelines. To have to guard him every day in practice, you don’t run into too many players with his speed, his quickness and his ability.”
The Hawks’ leading scorer, 5-foot-11 guard Carl Jones, was held to just 10 points on three-for-nine shooting from the field after coming in averaging 17.9 points per game.
Mitchell may have indirectly aided that cause.
“He was Jones for the two days of practice,” Cassity noted. “He’ll probably be the (opponents’) best offensive guard from here on out.”
SLU brings their record to 6-11 overall and 1-3 in the Atlantic 10 with a road game at Fordham on Wednesday night.
“It feels good to win one,” Cassity said. “We really needed this one. We need every one from here on out. It feels good to come out on top.”