Mitchell scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Billikens to an impressive 69-55 victory over visiting Nebraska on Wednesday at Chaifetz Arena.
“Last year at their place they kicked us,” Mitchell said. “Through my mind the whole game I was thinking about, we’re not losing this game. That’s what I did out there so we came out with the win.”
Mitchell made seven of his 10 shot attempts, including two of three from 3-point range, and added three rebounds, two assists and two steals as SLU improved to 2-0 on the young season.
“I thought the guys did a great job with energy, effort and enthusiasm,” SLU coach Rick Majerus said. “That was a big thing. … I thought it was a good win for our guys.”
Freshman guard Christian Salecich added 11 points in the victory, including three 3-pointers, to go along with three rebounds and three assists. Freshman guard Femi John scored nine pints off the bench, including sinking five of six free throw attempts.
Sophomore guard Kyle Cassity added eight points, seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Willie Reed chipped in with seven points and nine rebounds.
“Coming off the SEMO game, we did a lot of stuff wrong,” Cassity said. “We went in the film room and fixed some of that stuff. To come out and beat a Big 12 team like this feels pretty good.”
Nebraska, which defeated SLU 71-57 a year ago at home, fell to 1-1 on the season. Sek Henry led the team with 14 points, while Ryan Anderson had 10 and Eshaunte Jones and Toney McCray each added nine off the bench.
“Last year at our place we played much harder than Saint Louis did,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “This year they played much harder than we did and therefore those are the two teams that won.”
Saint Louis jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, including five points from Cassity, and led for much of the first half. Nebraska rallied late in the opening half, but the Billikens took a 28-27 lead into halftime.
“We let them go on a little run there at the end of the first half and we were fired up about that,” Cassity said. “When we came out we ended up doing something different on the ball screens because they were hurting us on the ball screens.”
SLU came out much more aggressive after halftime. Nebraska took a quick 29-28 lead on a basket by Anderson, but that ended up being the only time the Cornhuskers led during the game.
The Billikens responded with a 16-2 run — Salecich hit two 3-pointers during that stretch and Mitchell and Cassity both added 3-pointers — to take command of the game.
Salecich struggled with his shot during the first half, but a pep talk from Mitchell at halftime may have helped get him going in the final 20 minutes.
“At halftime he came into the locker room with his head down ‘cause he missed the shots he missed,” Mitchell said. “I told him, Christian, everybody misses shots. … I told him to keep his head up and I told him defense wins games. He came out with confidence and knocked down some big shots for us.”
SLU seized the momentum with that run and never let up. The final few minutes turned into a free throw shooting contest for the Billikens and the home team, which made just 11 of 23 from the charity stripe in the season opener against Southeast Missouri, came through in the clutch.
Saint Louis knocked down 11 of its final 14 free throws to close out the contest.
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