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Saint Louis pulls away late to beat Salukis, 74-69

 
By Tom Weber
www.siusalukis.com
updated: 12/8/2017 1:36 PM

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Saint Louis closed the game on a 22-12 run during the final eight minutes to rally for a 74-69 win over Southern Illinois on Wednesday night at Chaifetz Arena.

The Billikens (4-4) snapped a four-game losing streak behind a 20-point, nine-rebound performance by freshman guard Jordan Goodwin and some timely 3-pointers late in the game by Javon Bess.

Saint Louis started the night with only seven scholarship players, as backup big man D.J. Foreman was sidelined with illness. When starting guard Davell Roby left midway through the first half, SLU played the rest of the contest with just six players. Four never left the court during the second half.

"We can't control whether the ball goes in the hole or not, but we can control what we do next," said SLU head coach Travis Ford. "Our team showed a lot of character when (Roby) went out."

The Salukis (4-3) let victory slip through their fingers down the stretch but showed flashes of promise with five players scoring in double figures, led by Jonathan Wiley's career-high 19 points.

Bolstered by the return of point guard Marcus Bartley, who scored 12 points and added three assists in his debut, Southern's offense was clicking early. Wiley's layup with 12:16 in the first half gave SIU its biggest lead, 18-9. SLU rallied back to take a four-point lead later in the half, but SIU closed with a 10-2 run to grab a 36-32 halftime advantage.

Bartley scored nine points in the second half -- six of them coming at the charity stripe -- and demonstrated why head coach Barry Hinson has been singing his praises for weeks while the SLU transfer has been sitting out with injury.

"I thought (Marcus) played exceptionally well," said Hinson. "He tried to split a ball screen and he took probably one ill-advised three, but other than that, I think you have to look at it and say, wow."

The game see-sawed back and forth in the second half, but Southern appeared to take control after a pair of Bartley free throws gave the Salukis a 57-52 lead with 8:21 remaining.

The Billikens hung tough, though, using a 1-3-1 zone defense that caused the Salukis difficulty and helped lead to eight second-half turnovers.

"I think one of the reasons we struggled is we couldn't see over it," Hinson said. "We didn't struggle against the 1-3-1 when Marcus was in the game. We did when our tiny guards were out there. The length kind of bothered us a bit."

Bess hit his first of two treys with 4:59 remaining to tie the game, 61-61.

The battle of big men in foul trouble was finally won by SLU freshman center Hasahn French when he fouled out Kavion Pippen with 3:25 to go and the score tied, 63-63. French, who blocked four shots on the night, came up with the biggest defensive play of the game with three minutes remaining. He stripped Bartley and took the ball coast to coast for a dunk to break the tie.

"We knew (the 1-3-1) was coming, it didn't surprise us," Bartley said. "We just didn't execute and that's on me as a point guard. We didn't work it around fast enough. Against a 1-3-1, you have to get the ball to the corner with pace."

Southern came up empty on its next possession and Bess hit a 3-point dagger with 2:12 to put SLU up, 68-63.

Bartley hit a deep 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to cut the deficit to 72-69, but Saint Louis made 3-of-4 free throws in the closing seconds to seal the victory.

The Billikens averaged only 57 points during their losing streak, but they moved the ball efficiently in the half court, took shots late in the shot clock, and had an impressive 17-8 assist-to-turnovers ratio.

"This is a team that hasn't been able to score most of the year and they did tonight," Hinson said. "I'm not surprised, I knew we'd see the best Saint Louis team so far. That's the best they've played."

"As coaches, we've been searching 24 hours a day trying to figure out what can we do to help our basketball team," Ford said. "We knew we were better than what we were showing."