Rick Majerus is getting ready for his home conference debut at Saint Louis. He’s hoping it won’t resemble anything close to his first Atlantic 10 game.
Majerus’ Billikens play for the first time since setting an NCAA record for offensive futility when they meet No. 17 Dayton on Saturday.
Majerus was hired by Saint Louis (9-6, 0-1) to bring the program to the level that he took Utah during his 15 seasons there from 1989-2004. He guided the Utes to 10 NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the 1998 championship game.
The Billikens haven’t been to the NCAAs since 2000 and don’t look like they will return this season after turning in the worst offensive performance since the shot clock was introduced in 1985-86 in their A-10 opener. They fell 49-20 at George Washington on Thursday, missing 23 straight shots in one stretch.
“I thought GW played tough on defense. We had some issues. You have to credit GW for playing very well. We have some issues in terms of our offensive proficiency,” the 59-year-old Majerus said.
It probably wasn’t what Saint Louis fans are expecting, considering that the Billikens are set to open an $80 million arena next season. It also likely reduced any buzz for the A-10 home opener against a red-hot Dayton team that has won 12 straight - its longest win streak since a 19-game run spanning the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons.
The Billikens shot just under 15 percent (7-of-48) on Thursday and missed 18 of 19 3-pointers. Kevin Lisch and Tommie Liddell - who combine to average more than 24 points - had a total of four on 2-of-21 shooting for Saint Louis, which has four starters back from a team that went 20-13 a season ago.
“It’s like being a stepparent. I didn’t pick them. They didn’t pick me,” Majerus said of the players. “They are trying hard. They are trying. It is a process. The effort is good. If it wasn’t I would say it publicly.”
It won’t be easy to bounce back against the Flyers (13-1, 1-0), who turned in their best offensive performance of the season in a 92-83 win over No. 22 Rhode Island on Wednesday. They shot a season-best 62 percent and made a season-high 11 3-pointers.
“It was a great heavyweight fight with two teams going back and forth,” Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. “It speaks volumes of where our league is at to have two teams of that caliber go out there and perform the way they did in a big game.”
Brian Roberts led the way with 23 points. Roberts, who is fourth in the A-10 in scoring at 19.4 points per game, is averaging 24.3 in Dayton’s three road games this season.
Marcus Johnson scored 14 points and Andres Sandoval added 12 for Dayton, which is off to its best start since winning its first 14 games in 1955-56.
The Flyers will be without second-leading scorer Chris Wright, who is out for 4-to-8 weeks with a fractured bone in his right ankle. Wright played just eight minutes in the Rhode Island game.
Dayton has won four of the last five meetings with Saint Louis, but the teams split two games last season. The Billikens have won 14 of their last 15 at home, including seven straight in conference play.