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St. Louis wins one the hard way

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 1:40 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 1:42 a.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Just because St. Louis University is ranked 24th in the nation, has now won 10 straight games, is 3-0 in conference play for the first time in the lifetime of anyone on the team and is 16-2 overall doesn’t mean that every victory is an easy one.

This time, the Billikens ran into a defense that gave them as many fits as they usually give opponents, and they added in some abysmal foul shooting — they missed six of their final seven — to drag out the suspense in a 66-60 win over St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night at Chaifetz Arena.

“No, it was not,” forward Dwayne Evans said. “We did not expect it to be easy, though. We could have played a lot better, but we’ll take the win.”

Evans had 18 points and Jordair Jett had 15 to lead SLU, though six of the biggest points came from freshman Mike Crawford, who hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers in a 12-1 run in the second half that got SLU out of a brief hole and gave the Billikens the breathing room they would need to overcome their late-game generosity.

But the numbers that may stand out most were SLU making just 16 of 30 free throws and committing 16 turnovers, which St. Bonaventure (11-6, 1-2) converted into 18 points. Mike McCall, a 71 percent shooter, went 0 for two at the line and Jett, whose free throws helped win the game at Rhode Island, made just one of four. Evans didn’t go to the line in the closing minute but was two for five at the line in the game.

“That wasn’t very good, was it?” SLU coach Jim Crews said.

“I don’t know what that was about,” Evans said. “We’ve been shooting free throws pretty good lately. It’s something we have to tighten up, everybody has an off day. Hopefully we’ll get back at it tomorrow. … We know in games like that that missing that many free throws can come back to bite us. I’m not going to say we were lucky to escape with a win, but we have to get better.”

SLU had 11 turnovers in the second half alone, which kept it from opening up a bigger lead, especially while shooting 63 percent from the field in the half. “We definitely got casual for a couple minutes in the second half toward the end,” Evans said. “We can’t have lapses like that, especially against good teams like St. Bonaventure.”

SLU fell behind 47-45 with about 10 minutes to play on a 3-pointer by St. Bonaventure’s Jordan Gathers. SLU tied the score on a drive to the basket by Austin McBroom. Rob Loe blocked a shot at the other end and Crawford nailed a 3 from the corner. “I just shot it, and it just felt good and it went in,” said Crawford, who has seen his minutes jump up since Christmas.

After a St. Bonaventure free throw, Jett took a 15-footer and missed, but got his own rebound and hit an 18-footer. Evans drew a charge, Loe scored off a Crawford assist and after a missed 3 by Gathers, Crawford hit another 3 to put SLU up 57-48.

SLU was up eight with 3:15 to play after a basket by Jett, and from there, SLU can be thankful it played good defense — St. Bonaventure shot 39 percent from the field for the game — because it was giving away chances to score. After Evans scored with a minute to play to put SLU ahead by seven, St. Bonaventure had to take quick 3’s, which didn’t go in. But for all the stops SLU got, the Billikens couldn’t extend the lead.

“You’re always a couple plays away from being disastrous in those things,” Crews said. “You have to play it out, and we did good on defense. On offense, we weren’t too good down the stretch.”

SLU couldn’t shake St. Bonaventure in the first half and led 28-27 at halftime. With fouls aplenty, neither team got much of a flow going. Grandy Glaze was called for two offensive fouls in 71 seconds and spent the final 13 minutes on the bench. SLU shot 32.4 percent from the field, missing at least five from within about a foot of the basket. The Billikens weren’t any better outside, where they were 0 for seven on 3-point tries.

“They’re a physical team,” Evans said. “They crash the boards hard every time, I think that took a toll on us. They’re really solid, have good guards and their bigs are hard to box out, which made it difficult. They’re tough every year we play them. “

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©2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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