Husak’s play helps Majerus win home opener
ST. LOUIS (AP)—Seven-foot senior sub Bryce Husak had a big game to match, helping Rick Majerus win his home debut at Saint Louis.
Husak had 13 points and a career-best seven rebounds off the bench in a 66-58 victory over Detroit that extended Majerus’ record in home openers to 21-0.
“You can’t help but be excited,” Husak said. “This is what basketball is about. You want to help your team win, then thre’s always individual stats.”
Kevin Lisch was 7-for-8 from the line in the last 1:21 and added 12 points and six rebounds for Saint Louis (3-1). The Billikens were 23-for-28 from the line, Detroit 5-for-8.
Majerus, hired to elevate Saint Louis to prominence, said there’s a good reason for his perfect record in home openers and near-perfect mark in openers period, losing only to Kansas in 1995. Almost always, it’s been inferior competition.
“Most of my career those have been bad teams,” Majerus said. “I’m not saying Detroit was, and quite frankly I’m proud of the guys on this win. But historically I’ve played the Lady of the Lake.”
Josh Samarco had 16 points with four 3-pointers for Detroit (1-1), which shot 52 percent in the second half to make it close. Chris Hayes added 14 points and Jon Goode 10 for the Titans, who cut the deficit to five on Samarco’s 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go.
Referee Mike Sanzere blew the whistle when Samarco caught the ball and appeared to travel before squaring to shoot, but changed his mind and ruled it an “inadvertent whistle.”
Husak, who finished one rebound above his previous best and one point below his career high for scoring, allowed Saint Louis to overcome 15 turnovers and generally ragged play. The game was a defensive struggle matching teams content to slug it out in a half-court game, with no fast break baskets.
“I think we played a hard-fought game,” Saint Louis forward Tommie Liddell said. “Obviously we had some mistakes. We just wanted to come out and play hard.”
Husak was the first player on either team to reach double figures in scoring when he converted a three-point play for a 45-31 lead that capped a 10-0 run with 7:43 to go.
He missed only one of six shots and provided an inside presence for a school that got outrebounded 6-1 the first five minutes. Majerus plugged in Husak, who played 17 minutes, and Saint Louis ended up with a 30-21 advantage on the boards.
Husak needs conditioning work after being hampered by a stress fracture in his left foot, and Majerus anticipates with time he’ll be more of a consistent factor inside. Husak was the backup for three seasons behind Ian Vouyoukas.
“He played more in the last three games than he practiced in the last month,” Majerus said. “Now he’s starting to practice. Bryce obviously gives you a lift. He’s got an exuberance for the game.”
Detroit has played its first two games without Brandon Cotton, a preseason all-Horizon League guard suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Goode also was suspended for the team’s opening exhibition game but had 22 points and hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer of a 1-point victory over Kent State in the opener.
Detroit went more than seven minutes without scoring in the middle of the first half during a 12-0 Saint Louis run that produced a 16-9 lead. Detroit hit three 3-pointers the rest of the half and was down one before Husak’s tip-in at the buzzer put the Billikens ahead 24-21.