It was not pretty, however, Saint Louis University with their backs against the wall responded to the task with a huge three-pointer by point guard Austin McBroom with 10 seconds left in the game to claim their first lead of the second half, 60-57. SLU loves dramatic moments. It was not the crisp Billikens basketball that fans had seen from the last three years, but their young team had the lead.
"They took a contested jump shot and that's all we can ask for," said Saluki head coach Barry Hinson, whose team switched to a 2-3 zone for the first time on the final possession. "The kid (McBroom) just made a big-time play."
Southern Illinois’ Anthony Beane hit two free throws to cut the Bills lead to one point. With 3.6 seconds left, the Salukis fouled Ash Yacoubou who hit his two free throws to make it 62-59, but SIU had one more chance. The Salukis inbound pass was intercepted by freshman Davell Roby and that sealed the Bills first victory of the season.
The first half was back and forth at first. SLU and SIU are very young teams so there were a lot of turnovers and mistakes. However, both teams had consistency from its veterans. For SIU, it was Anthony Beane and his mid-range jumper and for SLU it was Austin McBroom and his 3-point shooting. McBroom hit two early 3-pointers to give the Bills an early 10-8 advantage. However, Beane responded with his strong play getting into the lane and hitting jumpers and layups for claim the lead for Salukis.
SIU continued to maintain a slim lead due to a lot of SLU turnovers. SLU committed 17 turnovers on the night, not characteristic of previous Bills teams. The Bills had a few opportunities to cut into the slim SIU lead, but kept shooting itself in the foot until the 3:56 mark in the first half.
McBroom grabbed the rebound on a Ibby Djimde miss and drove down the floor where he found Roby in the corner and the freshman hit the 3-pointer and was fouled. SLU reclaimed a brief 31-29 lead on Roby's four-point play, but SIU quickly tied the game and reclaimed the lead thanks to Beane and SIU forward Sean O’Brien who gave the Billikens problems on the defensive end all night. O'Brien ended the night with a double-double (15 points and 12 rebounds).
Guard Jalen Pendleton made two buckets for the Salukis to give them the four point advantage going into halftime.
The Bills had were struggling on the boards early in the first half. The freshmen for the Bills have not adapted to the strength of their collegiate competition yet. However, SIU only held an 18-17 rebounding advantage at halftime after holding a 10-4 advantage earlier in the first half.
The second half continued the sloppy play from both teams. During the first ten minutes of the second half, there were eight turnovers between the Bills and the Salukis. It was difficult to watch at times.
At the 13:52 mark, Beane picked up his fourth foul of the game. This seemed like the perfect time for the Bills to take advantage, but they struggled as O’Brien hit key bucket after bucket to hold on to the slim SIU lead. The Salukis had a two point lead, 52-50, when Beane returned at the 7:00 mark in the second half. When Beane returned he helped extend the lead to five points for SIU.
SIU forward Jordan Caroline had a huge follow up dunk to give the Salukis the 56-51 lead as Saint Louis called a timeout to regroup and calm down the freshman. SLU Head Coach Jim Crews seem to sense that the game was slipping away from his young team. It worked because SIU did not make another field goal in the game. Their final field goal came at 6:00 mark with Caroline’s dunk. The SLU defense finally picked up.
Still, SLU struggled as they did not make a basket for three long minutes. Yacoubou made a strong move to the basket to break the scoring drought and cut the SIU advantage to three points, 56-53. Another minute passed, but another key play happened that will affect the Bills going forward.
McBroom, in a scrum at the 2:43 left in the second half for the ball, had his right wrist stepped on by an SIU player. McBroom grimaced in pain, but remained in the game. It certainly affected him as he dribbled primarily with his left hand, his off-hand, for the remainder of the game.
After a made free throw by each team, SLU was looking to tie the game. They struggled all game to convert in these moments, but Yacoubou found sophomore guard Mike Crawford in the corner who buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 57 with 1:57 left in the game. After SIU missed a jumper, SLU took the ball down and Yacoubou missed a tip-shot on a jumper from McBroom, but the ball went off an SIU player and set up the go ahead bucket for McBroom with 10 seconds left in the game.
SLU played 12 players tonight, even Austin Gillmann who was expected to redshirt, played in the game. The only player on scholarship that did not play was forward Grandy Glaze who was injured tonight.
The freshman with the exception of Roby looked a bit overwhelmed with the stage and the atmosphere. Still, they contributed and played well. Gillmann was a surprise with 6 points and 4 rebounds. Roby also did an excellent job on both ends of the floor, while he only scored 4 points,his athletic ability is a key reason why SLU got the final steal and did much better on the defensive end in the final six minutes of the game.
Mike Crawford had a good performance off the bench for the Bills with 10 points. He hit some key shots and helped when Yacoubou and McBroom were on the bench.
One concern to have going forward will be McBroom’s right wrist. According to InsideSTL columnist Brian Haenchen, McBroom, after the game, went to have an x-ray on his right arm.
A win is a win, Head Coach Jim Crews is not going to be happy with all of the turnovers and the sloppy play, but he is dealing with a lot of freshmen who have a huge learning curve. Yet, he may have to rely on his freshmen more, especially if McBroom is going to be out for any period of time.