The Saint Louis Billikens returned home on Tuesday night and were in for a rude awakening as the faltered down the stretch against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. An 8-0 run in the final 1:20 down the Billikens for their second straight loss. This is the first time they have lost back-to-back non-conference games since the 2010-11 season.
SLU struggled shooting the ball all night as they shot 33.3 percent from the field and were 2-19 from 3-point range. South Dakota State on the other hand excelled at shooting the ball as they were 51.2 percent from the field and shot 61.5 percent from 3-point range. The Jackrabbits were led by a strong second half performance by Deondre Parks who scored the 5 of the final 8 points for SDSU late in the second half.
The Billikens’ youth hurt them once again as they could not put the game away late. This was very similar to their earlier loss against Texas A&M Corpus Christi went they went cold in the final minutes of that game as well. They scored one basket in the final 2 minutes of this game and had some major breakdowns of the defensive end.
Despite forcing 22 turnovers, the Billikens did not get many points off of those turnovers and were 15-24 from the free throw line. Those factors, along with their poor shooting and lack of execution down the stretch, is what was the ultimate difference in this game.
Saint Louis struggled out of the gate once again. They went 1-6 from the field in the opening four minutes. However, unlike the Wichita State game, their opponent struggled to make a basket at first. The Jackrabbits were only up 4-2 after the first media timeout.
After SLU took a brief 10-9 lead, South Dakota State went on a 10-0 run. They outrebounded the Bills during this stretch to get claim a 9 point lead. The Jackrabbits however kept turning the ball over and that allowed the Billikens to cut into the Jackrabbit lead.
While the Billikens were only able to get 8 points off of 15 turnovers in the first half, they were slowly put together a 14-2 run over a five minute stretch to reclaim a 3 point lead, 24-21. However, the Jackrabbits were able to hit a 3-pointer late in the first half to get a 1 point lead going into halftime.
SLU opened the second half on an 8-0 run. They played with a renewed energy to quickly gain a 7 point lead early in the second half. Bills center John Manning scored 4 of the 8 points during this run. Yet, every time the Bills would get on a run or gain some momentum, South Dakota State would respond with a big shot.
The Jackrabbits kept the game within two or three possessions for the remainder of the second half. Saint Louis extended the lead to 7 points once again after a guard Mike Crawford bucket and free throw, but that was the biggest lead SLU had in the second half. The Jackrabbits kept hitting shots and broke down the Bills defense multiple times late in the second half to get some easy buckets.
Despite the momentum, SDSU’s leading scorer, forward Cody Larson, fouled out with 4:20 left in the second half. This was a big break for SLU, but they could not convert their free throws or get quality offensive possessions down the stretch. Saint Louis only scored 4 points in the final 4:20 of the second half.
The turning point of the game came at the 2:06 mark when SDSU guard Deondre Parks made a layup to give the Jackrabbits a 54-53 lead. SLU responded with a bucket of its own, but forward Zack Horstman beat the Bills down the floor to give another layup with 1:20 to go in the game. From there, SLU turned the ball over twice and the Jackrabbits used free throws to ice the game.
Saint Louis fans will be asking a lot of questions after this game. This team is in rebuilding mode, but the fans likely did not expect losses to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and South Dakota State. Perhaps SLU Head Coach Jim Crews will need to insert freshman forward Milik Yarbrough into the starting lineup who provided a huge spark off the bench tonight and energy these past few games. Yarbrough had 15 points and 9 rebounds for the Bills on Tuesday.
Saint Louis will remain at home on Saturday Dec. 13th at 7 p.m. eastern time to play Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. South Dakota State will return home to play the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Dec. 13th at 5 p.m. eastern time.