The ball was stolen and passed up to Saint Louis’ Milik Yarbrough who ended the game on an emphatic two-handed dunk letting out a lot of frustration that had been building over the last 9 games. The dunk was a pressure release after the Billikens finally won an overtime game against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks, 68-61. The Bills had been on the wrong end of numerous close games against George Washington, Virginia Commonwealth and Massachusetts, but were finally able to get a long overdue victory against the Hawks.
The Billikens relied on their defense that only allowed one field goal in the overtime period. However, it was their offense that finally picked up and allowed them to claim their second Atlantic 10 conference victory thanks to a career-night from Ash Yacoubou. Yacoubou had a career-high 20 points in the victory.
SJU was unable to make their layup and buckets around the rim late in the game. Forward DeAndre Bembry was exhausted and struggled in the overtime along with his teammates. Bembry was able to get his team into overtime, but struggled with the Billikens aggressive play and his fellow teammates being in foul trouble.
Saint Joseph’s were hitting their 3-pointers early in the first half. Forward Isaiah Miles and guard Aaron Brown hit two 3-pointers after Saint Louis briefly took the lead. The Hawks were making extra passes to find the wide open Miles and Browns for their 3-pointer. The Billikens were putting a lot of attention on forward Bembry and that allowed these 3-pointer shooters for the Hawks to be open. This 3-point shooting allowed the Hawks to get a 9 point lead before the Bills called timeout with 12:39 left in the first half.
The Hawks increased their lead to 13 points, but SLU went a 7-0 run over 5 minutes to cut the Hawks lead down to 6 points. Yacoubou and forward Milik Yarbrough battled in the interior to slowly but surely make buckets to pick away at the Saint Joe’s lead. SLU also picked it up on the defensive end as Saint Joseph’s only made one of their last 12 field goals in the first half. They were more aggressive on the defensive end by converging on the ball when it entered the lane and more aggressive in their man-to-man defense.
Despite the picked up effort by the Billikens, they struggled to score and were only able to get the Hawks lead down to five points by halftime. Saint Joe’s 3-point shooting was the key difference as they went 4-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half. Saint Louis however was able to force 9 turnovers in the first half to stay in the game.
In the second half, Saint Louis came out with great energy. SLU’s Yacoubou and Yarbrough attacked the basket and the Hawks struggled to defend them. Yet, SLU also took more time with their offensive possessions looking for quality looks. Earlier this year, the team rushed in their offensive and still do that at times, but are learning to slow down more. At the first media timeout of the second half, the Billikens were only down two points.
The Billikens finally reclaimed the lead with 8:11 left in the second half. SLU struggled to break through after having multiple opportunities to reclaim the lead, but finally did so thanks to Yacoubou. Yacoubou took a charge against Aaron Brown to give the Billikens the ball with the game tied at 42. Yacoubou then drove into the lane to get an easy bucket to SLU the lead. On the next possession, SLU’s Milik Yarbrough stole the ball and passed it ahead to Yacoubou who made an athletic play against Bembry to get the chance at a 3-point play. Yacoubou’s play was a major reason SLU stayed in this game and reclaimed the lead, but Saint Joe’s was not out of the game.
SJU kept the game close as SLU could not pull away after reclaiming the lead. The Hawks went Deandre’ Bembry to carry them the reset of the way. They ran the offensive through Bembry as he got to touch the ball on every offensive possession as he is the focal point on this year’s Hawks team. Bembry made a beautiful pass to forward Javon Baumann who had an "and one" opportunity with 3:05 left in the game. Baumann missed a free throw that would have given the Hawks the lead. Baumann's missed attempt set up an exciting finish.
Saint Louis aggressively attacked the basket and drew fouls against the Hawks, but could not make their free throws. They missed two key free throws that could have given them a three-point lead, but they clung to a one-point lead for nearly two minutes until Bembry made a free throw to tie the game at 55.
The Billikens responded with one of their best plays of the year. The Billikens patiently passed the ball around the perimeter until they kicked the ball inside to Yarbrough. The Hawks defense collapsed on Yarbrough, but he kicked it to guard Marcus Bartley who drove the ball into the lane and made a tough layup with 31 seconds left in the game to put the Billikens up two points. However, the Hawks replied to tie the game.
After nearly going over-and-back, SJU Head Coach Phil Martelli called timeout to draw up a play for Bembry. The Hawks got the ball to Bembry who backed down Yarbrough and made a tough turn around layup with nine seconds left in the game. SLU was called for an offensive foul on the other end with two seconds left, but Saint Joe’s threw the ball away on the in bounds pass forcing the game into overtime.
Saint Louis played tonight without starting center John Manning who was out due to a concussion-like symptoms. However, the offensive appeared to operate more smoothly without him in the rotation. Freshmen center Austin Gillmann along with forwards Brett Jolly and Reggie Agbeko played well and provided more scoring options for the Billikens in the post. While Manning provides a defensive presence, there appeared to be more movement in the offense end and it will be something interesting to see how the Bills rotate their front line going forward.
Saint Joseph’s will have to figure out who can be another offensive option besides Bembry going forward.
Saint Louis will go on the road to take on the Fordham Rams on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. Eastern. Saint Joseph’s will return home to take on the George Mason Patriots on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 4 p.m. Eastern.