ST. LOUIS (AP)—A week after futility put Saint Louis on SportsCenter, Billikens players were eager to check out the late-night highlights.
Tommie Liddell scored 22 points and the Billikens held No. 23 Rhode Island to season-lows for scoring and shooting percentage in a 68-61 upset on Thursday night.
Reserve Paul Eckerle had 13 points and Luke Meyer 12 for Saint Louis (10-7, 1-2 Atlantic 10), which seven days earlier set a modern record for fewest points in the shot clock era which began in 1985-86, scoring only 20 in a loss at George Washington.
“I didn’t turn on the TV,” said Liddell, who was 1-for-12 with two points in that game. “Tonight, I’m turning on the TV.”
Now, they’ve earned a chance to celebrate the school’s first significant win under new coach Rick Majerus, and first over a ranked opponent since a 72-61 victory over No. 23 Memphis on March 11, 2004, in the Conference USA tournament.
“I’m happy for them,” Majerus said. “They’re really trying their heart out, for the most part.
“Nothing helps you like hustle.”
Will Daniels, coming off a 28-point game against Duquesne, was plagued throughout by fouls and managed 12 points before fouling out with 2:45 to go. Daniels, who averages 19 points, sat the last 9:13 of the half after drawing his third foul on a charge.
“We were trying to get him out of the game when he got that foul,” coach Jim Baron said. “He’s been a big part of what we’re doing, but you’ve got to give Saint Louis credit.”
Parfait Bitee and Lamonte Ulmer had 11 points apiece for Rhode Island (15-3, 1-2), which entered the game averaging 88 points in its last seven games. The Rams shot 34.3 percent, eight percentage points lower than the previous worst, and their previous scoring low was 72 points in a loss at Boston College on Nov. 21.
Jimmy Baron, Rhode Island’s second-leading scorer with a 16-point average, was held to 10 on 4-for-12 shooting.
Baron disregarded Saint Louis’ 20-point effort in his game plan, pointing out that the Billikens lost in overtime at home to Dayton two days later.
“It’s not a rookie team,” he said. “These guys, they’re good. At home, they’re night and day.”
All three of the Atlantic 10’s ranked teams have lost in the last two days. No. 14 Dayton lost to Massachusetts and No. 20 Xavier lost to Temple on Wednesday.
Saint Louis shot 54.5 percent and led 27-23 at the half, another low-water mark for Rhode Island. The Billikens twice stretched the advantage to 12 points in the second half.
Rhode Island cut the deficit to 47-43 with about six minutes to go after three straight baskets by Daniels, but a pair of baskets by Liddell on the break helped Saint Louis go back up by 12 at 55-43 with 3:49 left.
Saint Louis’ cushion was only five in the final minute before Liddell, 9-for-12 from the field, hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 44.5 seconds left to make it 63-55.
Rhode Island averaged 88 points in its previous seven games, the school’s best stretch since 1986-87, and entered the game among the nation’s best with 49 percent shooting. The Rams missed 13 of their first 15 shots, only making 3-pointers by Daniels and Jimmy Baron, in the first 10 minutes while falling behind 9-8.
Daniels was called for a charge with 9:18 to go, his third foul, and sat down with five points and three rebounds with Saint Louis leading 11-8.
Saint Louis won without starting forward Barry Eberhardt, its third-leading scorer (9.0) and rebounder (5.1), who missed the game with a sprained ankle. Freshman Adam Knollmeyer got his first career start and had a career best six points and five rebounds.