The new national ranking and attention did not faze the St. Louis Billikens this evening. St. Bonaventure athletically matched the Billikens for most of the night and fought hard with their opponent all night, but one 12-4 run thanks to two key Mike Crawford three pointers gave the Bills the advantage they need to secure their tenth straight victory. The Bills won the game 66-60 in their Atlantic 10 conference home opener against the Bonnies.
SLU goes to 16-2 on the season and 3-0 in Atlantic 10 play while St. Bonaventure falls to 11-6 (1-2, A-10). Dwayne Evans finished the game with 18 points and six rebounds and Jordair Jett contributed 15 points in the victory over St. Bonaventure. Matthew Wright led the way for the Bonnies with 17 points.
"I think St. Bonaventure is as mentally and physically tough a program as anyone that we (have) faced," said Head Coach Jim Crews. "They do a great job making it tough for anything."
Saint Louis’ Dwayne Evans got off to a hot start. He scored six of SLU’s first eight points to give the Bills an early 8-3 lead.
The pesky Bonnies though were undeterred by the Billikens early threat. They took the Massachusetts Minutemen down to the wire last time out and stood their ground in this game. An 8-2 run gave St. Bonaventure a 16-14 lead with 7:47 left in the first half.
Back and forth both teams went for the next eight minutes with some questionable officiating including a ball kicked out of bounds by a St. Bonaventure player, but the officials called it against the Billikens. The next time down, the officials tried to give SLU a make up call, but it was very uneven on both ends toward the end of the first half.
After a strong drive to the basket by Jordair Jett to give the Bills a four point lead, the Bonnies closed the half with a Jordan Gathers three pointer to make it a one point Saint Louis advantage at halftime.
SLU reestablished itself in the post in the second half. They had gone away from getting the ball in the post in the last eight minutes of the first half. Evans sparked an 8-2 run as the Billikens to take a 36-29 lead with 17:38 left in the game.
St. Bonaventure continued to stay in the game. Their athleticism and length was tough for St. Louis to handle at points. The Bonnies briefly reclaimed a 47-45 lead thanks to Dion Wright and Matthew Wright scoring some key buckets as Saint Louis struggled to make baskets. However, Saint Louis would response with a run that would put the game out of reach for the Bonnies.
A second half 12-4 SLU run was pivotal in their victory. Freshman Mike Crawford who played significant minutes off the bench tonight hit a key three pointer to reclaim the lead for the Billikens with 9:19 left in the second half. After buckets by Jett and Rob Loe, Crawford, near the top of key, confidently stroked another three pointer to give the Bills a nine point lead with 7:03 forcing St. Bonaventure to burn a timeout. Crawford has been receiving good minutes and his three point stroke has been a key reason why he is receiving minutes.
"I just shot it and it just felt good," said Crawford on converting the go-ahead three pointer. "I am slowly understanding things a little better and getting more comfortable in my role."
Saint Louis will continue its journey in the A-10 against the Fordham Rams at Chaifetz Arena on January 18 at 2:30 p.m. eastern time. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies will return home to play the George Washington Colonials on January 18 at 7:00 p.m. eastern time.