The Saint Louis University Billikens never make it easy on themselves. Every game is a struggle due to stretches of not being able to make shots, which allows other teams to stay in games until the final four minutes. Sometimes the Bills are not able to close out these games, but against the Texas-Pan American Broncs, they were able to close out the game thanks to sophomore Mike Crawford's career-high 19 points performance. SLU was able to claw out a 75-69 victory against UTPA.
The young team continues to struggle against less-than stellar competition. However, they have been able to find a way to win, but they make it way too difficult on themselves. Yet, they will have some time to work out some of their issues over the holidays.
Saint Louis had another excellent start. They were 5-6 from the field to open the game. Achraf Yacoubou had 8 of the opening 13 points for the Bills. Yacoubou asserted his will slashing into the lane and making some timely 3-pointers. Bills fans have waiting for a breakout game from Yacoubou and he brought great energy early. Yacoubou’s hot start gave the Bills an early 13-6 lead.
The Bills extended their lead to 13 points in the first half, but the Broncs decided to make let their leading scorer Janari Joesaar back into the game with two fouls. Joessar provided a huge spark for Texas Pan-American gave them a 16-4 run midway through the first half to cut the SLU lead down to 1 point, 25-24, with 4:35 left in the first half. SLU went cold during this seven minute stretch only making two field goals.
Despite the struggles and lack of scoring, SLU responded to the Broncs run by closing out the first half on an 11-2 run. SLU went back to getting the ball into the interior and finding gaps in UTPA’s 2-3 zone. They closed out the first half on a cross court pass by freshman Austin Gillmann to Crawford for a 3-pointer to go up 36-26 at halftime.
Joesaar quickly cut the lead into single-digits with a quick 3-pointer to open the second half. Saint Louis was able to get their lead back into double-digits a few times early in the second half, but Joesaar’s dominance was something that the Bills could not match. Joesaar cut the Bills lead down to 3 points with 11:50 left in the second half. The game from that point would be within one or two possessions the rest of the way.
The Broncs just could not break through to take the lead despite poor shooting by the Bills. However, Saint Louis was able to score at key moment to increase their lead to two possession when UTPA was about to tie the game. The best opportunity for the Broncs to overtake the Bills was with 4:41 left in the second half.
SLU’s Yacoubou fouled Joesaar after Yacoubou was beaten on a drive to the lane by Joesaar. In frustration, Yacoubou punched the ball into the stands and was immediately assessed with a technical foul. This gave Joesaar four shots at the foul line with the Broncs down 4 points. Joesaar made three of his four free throws, but yet again, the Broncs could not get the lead on subsequent possessions.
In the final four minutes, SLU’s Mike Crawford made some clutch free throws and a key 3-pointer to seal the game for the Bills. Crawford maintained his aggressiveness in the final four minutes and was able to slash into the lane and get to the foul line. SLU was able to close out the game as the Broncs could not get over the hump in the final few minutes.
Saint Louis will play on Sunday, Dec. 21st against the Vermont Catamounts at 2 p.m. eastern time. Texas Pan-American will travel to Creighton to play the Bluejays on Friday, Dec. 19th at 9 p.m. eastern time.