Saint Louis marched into enemy territory Saturday and got contributions from every guy in the lineup in order to take down the Kansas State Wildcats. Despite being understaffed due to injuries, and maybe even a tad emotionally charged due to the news of losing one of their top guys for the season in Gibson Jimerson, the Billikens remained composed and determined.
In a game like this one, what stands out most, of course, is just how different this year’s version of the Billikens competes compared to last year’s squad. The depth of this year’s roster is what won them the game on Saturday. Contributions emerged up and down the lineup from guys like Javonte Perkins, Tay Weaver, and Terrence Hargrove, whereas last season if you had two guys out of the lineup there really wasn’t a bench to turn to. Having bench depth like this is a luxury Billiken fans have not had in a very long time.
With the loss of Gibson Jimerson, the deployment and functionality of the lineup has changed significantly. Jimerson’s mere presence on the floor spaced things out for the rest of the team. Should the Billikens want to continue to compete at a high level they will need to find a way to replicate that “spacing”. Fortunately, the Billikens have other shooters who can potentially fill in the role. Demarius Jacobs, Javonte Perkins, and Tay Weaver have all now shown they have the ability to space things out.
Against K-State they accomplished the goal for Jimmerson’s injury in a real Money Ball style. They didn’t replace Jimerson 1-for-1, you can’t do that, but they did so in the aggregate. The Billikens shooting question is going to be answered by this group collectively. They need to have a depth of talent to challenge other teams and allow Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French an opportunity to operate.
This was a must-win game for SLU and the guys delivered. They were challenged all evening by a well-coached, talented, Big 12 team, in the most hostile environment, this group of Bills have faced all season. And they didn’t blink. When the pressure got turned up, their defense came to play and overwhelmed the Wildcats and forced 13 second-half turnovers.
It was incredibly encouraging to see that in the final moments of this game when things got tight, the younger players were the ones to raise their game and become difference makers. The Billikens closed out this game on the backs of guys like Yuri Collins and Javonte Perkins.
Post-game, K-State head coach Bruce Weber said that the Billikens were “cheering like they won the national championship in that locker room”, and while I’m not quite sure about that, the Saint Louis University Billikens certainly deserved to celebrate. They made a statement about what this team can be despite the injuries they’ve sustained. They have played themselves into a position where they are a team just off the bubble of the NCAA tournament and have set themselves up to where they can succeed in the A-10 by playing challenging opponents and preparing themselves for what is to come.
Jordan Goodwin- 4 Stars
Jordan Goodwin is a leader. He does what it takes to win. And it feels a little backhanded to say that sometimes he may wear that weight a little too heavily on his shoulders. There are times in games when he tries to force too much through him and be “The Guy.” It’s not hero ball, but it’s something in that neighborhood.
Defensively is when he’s most prevalent and rears his head on offense occasionally as well. All game it was apparent that Jordan was desperate to grab steals and force turnovers, to create momentum and make a big play…a noble goal. However, it oftentimes leads to the Billikens being shorthanded on the backside of the D. On the other side of the floor, Jordan took a handful of drives that were clearly ill-advised though always based on a desire to make something happen at the rim.
For all Jordan does for the team, a lot of this is excusable. He still gets a 4-star grade from me because night in and night out he makes things happen for the team. I’ve said in the past that I grade Jordan and Hasahn on a curve because of what is expected of them and this is no different. Little things, that’s all.
Yuri Collins- 5 Stars
What a spectacular showing for the freshmen. Yuri was truly the floor general the Bills needed and did everything for SLU down the stretch. Passing, shooting, key steals, as the Billikens wound down. Yuri was the man who stepped up and made things happen.
Yuri played like a man far beyond his years in the second half of this game and the results showed. If Collins does not step up and be that guy at the point, the Bills lose way more games than they win. He played clutch basketball and showed leadership on the floor in both his communication with his teammates and his selflessness.
Yuri said after the game that Travis Ford tells him that he’s, “the best point on the court, I control the game so when I have the ball in my hands, I have a mission.” It’s clear Yuri is ready to handle this team moving forward, he’s proven that, and the heights he can take it to are exciting to think about.
Terrence Hargrove Jr- 3.5 Stars
It would be very easy to write off the success of the Maryville game as an outlier due to the context of the opponent. But Terrence proved himself and his growth against a power five conference team. His offensive ability clearly showed, getting more dunks and making some crafty moves to get buckets. His defensive awareness still lacks a tad, and I make that distinction from his overall defense because when he is on the ball, he is passable at worst.
He is learning and making in-game adjustments on the fly. It’s very encouraging to see. There’s a reason Terrence was on the floor for the final shot because in the right situations Terrence Hargrove can be a game-changer. He helped carry the offensive load in the first half and kept the Bills in the game. Especially considering how the roster has shorted now. Billiken fans can expect to see a lot more Terrence Hargrove.
Tay Weaver- 4 Stars
Tay answered the call. With Gibson out and the team needing to find a new reliable perimeter threat, Weaver came up clutch in the first half and made both of his attempts from deep. He then added a third in a tense moment late in the game. Tay has looked all out of sorts of late and that in part may come from playing a different, more limited role with this team. But in this one, he looked fluid and self-assured.
Weaver is now going to be called on more often; the bench shortens and the next man has to step up. Tay is that next man and has the opportunity to soak up a large portion of the 25 mins a night Jimerson leaves behind.
With that extra opportunity, Tay reminded everyone of just the kind of player he can be. His confidence skyrocketed and he started to look more and more like the player his highlight package coming into SLU made him seem to be. Specifically, one sequence late in the game where he received the ball in the corner, sized his man up and shot over his defender, beating him with a quick release. Post-game he told me that, “that’s a shot I work on, and a shot I know I can make. I was feeling really good so I knew I could hit that and just let it fly.”
Confident Tay Weaver is a game-breaker for the Bills. He’s got some way to go in certain aspects of his games but it was very nice to see him get back to his strengths and prove himself.
Javonte Perkins- 4 Stars
Before I get started on the offensive ability Javonte showed, I’ll start by praising the defensive end for him. Is he a defensive player of the year candidate? No. But he has grown to a position where you can have him out there against good teams and he can be serviceable for you.
What that does is allow his offensive ability to shine, and even though his first half was quiet, when the team needed him most he showed up and showed out. Scoring a second half high of 11 points, Javonte would not be stopped. He continues to prove he’s the Billiken’s most diverse offensive threat and the only one who can score at all three levels and did so against K-State. He hit a three, drove to the hoop, took the midrange when it was there, and made 5-6 of his free throws.
Javonte is incredibly valuable to this team, especially now that the bench has gotten a little shorter. Its been clear since day one Javonte had the ability to do these types of things, and it’s a positive to see him having these types of games strung together regularly.
The Bills earn an A from me. Everyone came out and competed and proved that this group could beat good teams despite injuries. The team was challenged, and they answered.