The Billikens look to continue their march to an unbeaten non-conference season this afternoon when they place host to Evansville.
The Purple Aces come into the Chaifetz arena riding a high point in their season after getting their first win over Eastern Illinois in an upset at home. The Aces are quite well known for their upset victories, having last season walked into Kentucky and took a victory from the Wildcats on the road.
So, while yes…the Billikens and EIU are programs of different stature this season, this is all just to say that historically this group has no fear taking on “giants” and coming away with results.
SLU’s primary objective heading into Saturday afternoons tilt has to be personal development. In their last time out, the Billikens handily put away Central Arkansas, winning by 23. But the common narrative from the coaches both in the public states and according to my conversations was that they simply were not happy with how they executed their game plan and didn’t perform to their level. Defensive execution was off despite effort, and they did not win the rebounding battle.
Travis Ford’s coaching staff (and leadership core of players) expect a certain degree of execution on the defensive end of the ball even if they allow points. In this case, they felt the UCA Bears made too many shots because they were allowed to. Look for the Billikens to try and shut down jump shooters and force the Purple Aces to play to their style…which is a gritty paint battle if they can have it their way.
On the other hand, Evansville would very much prefer if they could stand on the outside and heave up shots from a distance. In his first season as head coach Todd Lickliter has brought his signature three-point shooting emphasis style to Evansville. While the team itself is only shooting 34.6% from deep, they rank 14th in the nation for the percentage of total shots taken from the perimeter. 42.7% of all of their points come from three-pointers, which leads their team and is 23rd nationally in point distribution.
Coach Lickliter has been on the sort of cutting edge of a high emphasis perimeter shooting team. In his 16 seasons as a head coach, dating back to 2002 and spanning tenures at Butler and Iowa, his teams have never been lower than 23rd in the country in terms of three-point attempts. Every consecutive season afterward, the number only gets closer to #1.
The Aces will shoot it from three, or at the very least, they will try their best to. They average 26 attempts per night. Should the Billikens be unable to execute on defense (whether by practicing a zone or working on the effective switch’s in man), it could be a VERY long day if that ball starts to go down.
The Billikens should though have every opportunity to create their own offense in multiple ways. The Aces do not defend the paint well in any particular way, nor do they force many turnovers. Yuri Collins, Jordan Goodwin, and Hasahn French should be free to use their passing ability as much as they’d like on that end, manufacturing buckets both in the half-court and when moving in transition.
The long and the short of it is. This is another matchup against a 300+ KenPom team; while they have some intrigue to them, anything but a dominant win would be disappointing. Vegas has SLU as the 23.5-point favorites, and we all know what they say.
Good teams win…Great teams cover.
The game will be airing on NBCSN, tip-off comes at 2 pm Central Time, Mike Corey and Dr. John Giannini will be on the call. Billiken Hall of Famers Bob Ramsey and Earl Austin Jr will be on the radio call for KMOX 1120 and on Radio.Com.
Jordan Goodwin will pass Mike McCall Jr for 19th all-time in Billiken scoring with just four more points. Next, he would look to pass Jordair Jett, who is 30 points ahead of him entering this game. Jordan overtook Billiken great Anthony Bonner for the all-time steals lead in their last time out. He would also need 6 assists to enter the top 10 all-time for helpers.
Hasahn French would need 13 points to pass Jeff Harris for 30th in all-time Billiken scoring.
Should the Billikens win, it would be Travis Ford's 80th win for SLU, tying him with Brad Soderburg for 7th all-time in coaching wins. Travis Ford passed Jim Crews earlier this season.