ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis has a well-earned reputation for being stingy on defense.
If the last two games are any indication, though, the 19th-ranked Billikens might be about to supplement that with a more consistent offense.
Using a week between games to identify ways to attack Richmond’s tricky matchup zone, Saint Louis opened up a 24-point lead before halftime and was never threatened Wednesday in a 77-57 Atlantic 10 Conference drilling at Chaifetz Arena.
The Billikens (19-2, 6-0) won their 13th straight game, their longest run since opening the 1993-94 season with 13 wins in a row. They did it with perhaps their most complete effort of the season on both ends.
While its defense held the Spiders (14-7, 4-2) to 31.5 percent shooting, Saint Louis canned 51.9 percent against an opponent that was permitting foes to make only 40.2 percent of their field goals.
“You have to compete just as hard offensively as you do defensively,” Billikens coach Jim Crews said. “We’ve been asking them to be more aggressive. I don’t mean taking quick shots — we don’t want that — but cutting hard, snapping passes off, ducking under cleanly in the post.
“I think we’ve done pretty well with that the last couple of games.”
Crews’ all-senior starting lineup was able to change tendencies somewhat to better succeed against Richmond and its varied defensive coverages. Saint Louis scored on 17 of its first 26 possessions, shelving its usual ball-screen offense in favor of high-low sets and creating good individual matchups.
Jordair Jett, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound guard, overpowered his smaller opponents for a game-high 21 points and added 10 rebounds — his second straight double-double. At times, he was matched against 5-8, 140-pound guard Kendall Anthony.
In Saint Louis’ last game, a 76-72 victory on Jan. 22 at Duquesne, Jett tallied 10 points and dished out 11 assists.
“It doesn’t matter to me how I get a double-double,” Jett said. “I always tell my big men that I’ll help them rebound. No one expects a 6-1 guard to crash the boards.”
Forward Dwayne Evans tacked on 15 points and 10 boards for the Billikens. Guard Austin McBroom came off the bench to add 12 points and center Rob Loe contributed 10, plus a team-high four assists, mostly on high post feeds to Evans.
Saint Louis established a 42-18 lead with 1:24 left in the first half on Jett’s runner and never let the margin slip below 18 during the second half. Loe’s 3-point play pushed the advantage to its largest at 68-41 with 7:06 remaining.
Anthony led Richmond, which carried a four-game winning streak into town, with 14 points. Fellow guard Cedrick Lindsay contributed 12, but the high-scoring duo, which average 32.5 points per game, made just 10 of 31 shots.
“They’re great at disrupting what you’re trying to do on offense,” Spiders coach Chris Mooney said of the Billikens. “The biggest thing was probably the physicality in their defense. We felt like we prepared for it, but we weren’t ready for it.”
Forward Derrick Williams added 10 points for Richmond, which was outrebounded 43-34. About the only negative for Saint Louis was 16 turnovers, mostly in the second half against frantic pressure defense.
“I turned on the TV last night and Creighton and St. John’s were tied at 58,” Crews said. “The announcer said that Creighton led 58-40. That’s why us coaches get paranoid.”
But with improved offensive efficiency, Crews really had little about which to worry.
NOTES: Saint Louis is one of only five schools in Division I that presently feature three active 1,000-point scorers. The others are Manhattan, South Carolina Upstate, William & Mary and VCU. … Richmond G Kendall Anthony is the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Week after averaging 20 points and shooting 51.8 percent in home wins over Massachusetts and St. Joseph’s. … The Billikens are one of just three teams in Division I that start five seniors. The others are Mercer and Pacific.
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