The Saint Louis Billikens pretty much put the game away against the Vermont Catamounts with 49 seconds left in the game, but had to withstand a late rally by the Catamounts to maintain a 3 point victory, 58-55. The Bills struggled down the stretch making free throws to ice the game and Catamounts made some timely buckets, however, it was too late for the visitors.
The Bills opened the game with an early 12-5 lead. SLU was helped by the Catamounts not scoring for 3 minutes and having 4 turnovers in 2 minutes. The Bills got some layups from forward Reggie Agbeko and Mike Crawford to build this quick lead. However, like the Bills have done all year, they went on a scoring drought in the middle of the first half to allow Vermont to get back into the game.
After missing 13 straight shots, the Catamounts claimed a 17-14 lead as forward Ethan O’Day scored 6 straight points for the Catamounts. The Billikens quickly regained the lead, but the game would remain close for the remainder of the first half. The teams traded baskets back and forth for the final 2:47 of the first half, but the Bills would cling to a 1 point lead at halftime.
The game experienced 6 lead changes in the opening eight minutes of the second half. SLU forward Milik Yarbrough made a key bucket and assist to Crawford to reclaim a 38-36 lead with 11:07 left in the second half. After that point, the Billikens lead the rest of the way.
Center Austin Gillmann scored 5 straight points to increase the Bills lead to 5 points. The Bills extended the lead into double-digits, 54-44, with 1:10 left in the game. That should have sealed the game for Saint Louis, but they had one final challenge.
The Bills begin to celebrate a bit too early as the Catamounts mounted an 11-2 run to close out the game. The Bills struggled to make a bucket and free throws late as the Catamounts attempted to get back into the game. SLU had the game in hand, but needs to have the maturity to play all 40 minutes of the game.
Saint Louis improves to 8-4 and will have a 10 day break until they play their final non-conference game against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Bills has improved over the last three games, showing an ability to close out games that they lacked against Texas A&M Corpus Christi and South Dakota State. It looks like the Bills will be playing all 12 of their active players the rest of the season. However, the Bills had some disappointing news, as senior forward Grandy Glaze will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
SLU will play Vanderbilt at home on Wednesday, Dec. 31st at 2 p.m. while Vermont will travel on the road Tuesday, Dec. 30th against the University of Southern California.