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Saint Louis Advances To Atlantic 10 Semifinals, Sends Charlotte Packing With 72-55 Win | The Catch and Shoot

Saint Louis Advances To Atlantic 10 Semifinals, Sends Charlotte Packing With 72-55 Win

By Jesse Kramer

The first game of the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals pitted No. 1 seed Saint Louis against No. 9 seed Charlotte. When these two teams played on February 16, the Billikens handled the 49ers with with a 75-58 win, where the final score did not reflect how close the game was. Charlotte was within five points with fewer than seven minutes remaining in the second half.

This time around, the 49ers once again remained close for about 30 minutes, but Saint Louis ultimately pulled away for a 72-55 win behind double-digit scoring performances from Dwayne Evans and Cody Ellis.

No. 1 seeds occasionally come out flat in conference tournaments after receiving a bye, but Saint Louis looked ready from the start to beat Charlotte, which needed insanity to unfold in order to advance to the quarterfinals. The 49ers trailed 63-60 with fewer than five seconds to play in regulation against Richmond yesterday, but a sequence that included two shooting fouls and three technical fouls, all by the Spiders, allowed the 49ers to escape with a 68-63 win.

In the first nine minutes, Charlotte was hanging close with Saint Louis. Evans, who was named to the first team all-conference, drew first blood with a three-point play in transition after a Kwamain Mitchell steal. One possession later, the Billikens forced another steal, and Mike McCall Jr. found Rob Loe for a layup. Charlotte finally got on the board with 17:36 left on a Victor Nickerson layup, and inside of 11 minutes they trailed by only three points at 19-16.

Then all hell broke loose.

In a heartbeat, Saint Louis went on a 13-0 run as McCall Jr. took center stage. It only took 2:10 for the Billikens to go from having a one-possession lead to doubling up the 49ers, 32-16. McCall Jr. began the sequence with a three-pointer and a two-point jumper on the following possession. After a trey from Mitchell, where McCall Jr. got the assist, McCall Jr. then forced a steal at halfcourt and converted a breakaway layup. Loe capped off the run with a three-pointer from the top of the key. (And who found and dished to the open Loe? McCall Jr., of course, who also had an offensive rebound on that possession.)

“A team’s going to make runs against us all the time,” McCall Jr. said. “We’ve just got to go onto the next play and try to make a run ourselves.

Charlotte showed some fight towards the end of the half and went into the break trailing, 39-28. The 49ers cut the deficit to seven points seven minutes into the second half, but Saint Louis responded with a 13-3 run to bump the advantage up to 17. From that point on, they never got closer than 14 points.

Dwayne Evans led the way for Saint Louis with a dominant performance inside. He scored 11 points while playing only 10 minutes during the first half and finished with 25 points and nine rebounds while shooting 8-of-9 from the field and a perfect 9-for-9 at the foul line.  Ellis, the Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year, had another solid performance off the bench with 13 points and three steals, but he shot only 3-of-13 from the field.

“We have a bunch of guys who can do a bunch of different things,” Evans said. “We had some of the best passes in America out there.”

“Our defense generated a lot of good things for us from an offensive standpoint,” said Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews, whose team scored 21 points off 20 Charlotte turnovers.” Although some of the Saint Louis’ statistics, most notably shooting 30.4% from the field in the second half and losing the rebounding battle, Crews was still optimistic about his team and its mentality. “Basketball is not a game of perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. Eventually good things will happen. Our guys have really had a good mentality with that. They don’t waste too many possessions.”

Chris Braswell was the only 49er to score in double figures. He had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Adding a solid all-around performance was Pierria Henry, who had nine points, eight rebounds and five assists before leaving the game with an injury. Henry took an elbow to the chest and was having trouble breathing as he went to the locker room.

The Billikens advance to the conference semifinals tomorrow, where they will face the winner of No. 4 seed La Salle vs. No. 5 Butler.

“Tournament play is tough, so we know we’ve got another tough game tomorrow,” Crews said.

Other notes from Saint Louis vs. Charlotte:
—Jim Crews on being the No. 1 seed and receiving a bye to the quarterfinals: “Every practice was done before we knew who we were going to play. It was different. You like getting the bye. But as soon as the other team wins, they feel really good about themselves.”

—Mike McCall Jr. on the possibility of playing La Salle in Saturday’s semifinal: “They play a lot of one on one, so you’ve just got to guard your man.”

Jesse Kramer will be covering all four rounds of the Atlantic 10 tournament for The Catch and Shoot. Follow on Twitter @Catch_N_Shoot for updates.

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.


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