The Saint Louis Billikens have struggled closing out games this season. They have fallen to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and South Dakota State in the final minutes, but this time against Southern Illinois Edwardsville Cougars, they were able to close the game down the stretch and won 67-61.
The Bills were able to get some clutch play from forward Tanner Lancona and some key free throws by guard Austin McBroom and center John Manning. They did not turn the game over or falter down the stretch. They were able be controlled and calm in crunch time.
Saint Louis did better in the opening minutes of this game. They have struggled in their past few games to get a consistent start, but they opened this game 8-9 from the field. The Bills went up 17-12 early in the game as their shooting allowed them to have an early lead. However, unlike their previous games, they turned the ball over.
The Bills had 13 turnovers in the first half. The team averages about 13 turnovers per game and all of those turnovers allowed the Cougars to remain in the game. SIUE only shot 44.8 percent in the first half, but they have more opportunities than Saint Louis around the bucket. The Cougars had 22 points in the paint in the first half, despite a supposed mismatch with the SLU forwards.
This poor shooting caused the Cougars to struggle to claw back into game, SLU struggled during the second part of the first half as SIUE pulled within one point in the closing seconds of the first half.
After the timeout, SLU drew up a play to get an easy layup for freshman Austin Gillmann to give the Bills a 3 point lead going into halftime. SLU fans had to be concerned as to whether they were going let another tight game slip away like when they played South Dakota State.
SLU started the second half on a strong note. Bills freshmen Milik Yarbrough, who started his first career game tonight, scored 5 of SLU’s first 8 points in the second half. He helped extend the Saint Louis lead to 7 points in the second half. However, SIUE would respond.
The Cougars cut the lead down to 2 points at the 8:00 mark in the second half thanks to some key 3-pointers by SIUE guard Kris Davis and Michael Messer. However, the Cougars could not tie the game or get a go-ahead bucket despite multiple opportunities to do so. They went down one point, 55-54, with 4:07 left in the game.
Another tight game was a major concern for Bills fans as they dropped some of these type of games against the Texas A&M Corpus Christi and South Dakota State. Yet, the Bills did not let this game slip away. They executed with some big buckets.
SLU forward Tanner Lancona had 5 key points for the Bills late in the second half. He drove the ball into the lane and made some strong plays in the interior. He gave Saint Louis a 4 point lead, but SIUE’s Maurice Wiltz responded with a 3-pointer to cut the SLU lead to 1 point with 1:45 left in the game.
SLU responded with an athletic layup by Achraf Yacoubou to get the lead back up to four points. The Cougars unfortunately could not responded and SLU sealed the game late with some late free throws by guard Austin McBroom and center John Manning.
Saint Louis was able to close out a game, they have struggled with this season, but the adversity from the previous game against Texas A&M CC and South Dakota State has allowed them to figure out what not to do at the end of games. They now know what they have to do at the end of games. Interestingly, it includes not having starter Austin McBroom in the lineup late and having freshman guard Marcus Bartley in for defensive purposes.
Saint Louis will play Texas Pan-American on Wednesday Dec. 17th at 8 p.m. and Southern Illinois Edwardsville will the Campbell Camels on Wednesday Dec. 17th at 7 p.m.