Warning: The Saint Louis Billikens men’s basketball team may cause extreme nail biting, higher than average stress levels and fits of inconsolable rage. That is the warning label that should come with the team at every game. It has been a few close games for Billikens fans recently, but at the end of the day, the wins keep on coming.
It was a case of déjà vu at George Mason. The hard fought battle between the Saint Louis Billikens and the George Mason Patriots was a near repeat of the game played earlier this season at Chaifetz Arena.
After Saint Louis Forward Dwayne Evans fouled out at the end of the second half, the team turned to SLU Guard Jordair Jett and Forward Rob Loe who carried the team in overtime with clutch drives to the bucket and three-pointers. They were the key as the Billikens managed to pull out another victory on the road, 89-85.
This win extends the winning streak to 18 straight games. The victory also makes this group of seniors the winningest group in the school’s history as they have won 90 games over their four years.
Saint Louis jumped out to an early lead thanks to some three-point baskets by SLU Guard Mike McCall Jr. and Jake Barnett. The Billikens were showing their strength from last season in the first half of this game. They hit six three-pointers in the first half and make about six of those shots per game this season. It is what kept them in the first half as George Mason shot 51 percent from the field in the first half.
The Patriots battled blow for blow with the Billikens in the first half. Anytime the Billikens appeared to gain momentum, George Mason would battle with Guard Sherrod Wright and the interior play of GMU Forward Jalen Jenkins. They exposed Saint Louis’ front court and kept the game close throughout the first half.
At 32-32, the Billikens had drawn up a play to reclaim the lead before halftime. However, Patriots Guard Bryon Allen intercepted the inbounds pass and nailed a three-pointer to give his team a 3 point advantage going into halftime. At that moment, it seemed like GMU had gained some momentum and had an opportunity to take down the No. 10 Billikens.
The second half was a repeat of the first. Mason took a brief seven point lead, but SLU fought back. They lead changed too many times to count in the second half, but it all came down to the final two minutes of the second half.
Mason hit a layup to tie the game at 69, but then another déjà vu moment occurred. SLU’s Rob Loe got the ball at the top of the key and nailed a three-pointer to give the Bills a 3 point lead with 45 seconds left in the game.
George Mason called timeout, likely to question a higher authority for the torture Loe has put them through this season, but they responded to the adversity. GMU's Sherrod Wright hit an amazing bucket to cut the lead to 1 point.
Saint Louis’ Evans was fouled with a chance to increase the Bills lead to 3, but in a rare instance, missed both of his free throws. This gave George Mason an opportunity to win the game.
After a GMU timeout, GMU’s Allen missed a layup, but Jenkins collect the rebound and was fouled by SLU’s Evans to put Jenkins at the line with 5 seconds left in the game. Jenkins, calmly, hit both free throws to give Mason the 1 point lead. The Evans foul forced him to sit the rest of the game, meaning it was time for SLU's Jordair Jett to step up.
Jett inbounded the ball and then got it back from Loe as the seconds ticked away and just when he put up his shot. FOUL! A questionable call by the officials gave the Billikens the opportunity to reclaim the lead and the game. Jett missed the first attempt, but then hit the second attempt forcing the game into another overtime match.
It was déjà vu all over again, but this time, SLU would have to claim a victory without Dwayne Evans, its leading scorer.
However, Loe stepped up once again in overtime. After the Patriots claimed an early 4 point lead in overtime, Loe hit two huge three-pointers to give the Billikens a 2 point lead about halfway through overtime.
That’s when Jett took over hitting two key layups after Mason had tied the game at 79. The Billikens then got the ball to Mike McCall on a busted defensive assignment by the Patriots to claim a 6 point lead and survive another close game.
Saint Louis will return home on Saturday, Feb. 22 to take on the George Washington Colonials at 8 p.m. eastern time. George Mason will stay at home to take on the Richmond Spiders on Wednesday, Feb. 26. at 7 p.m. eastern time