ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis has no one ranked among the Atlantic 10 Conference's top 20 scorers, top 10 rebounders or top 10 assist men. But no one in the A-10 can beat the newly ranked Billikens these days. Playing its first home game as a ranked team since 1994, No. 18 SLU pulled away from St. Joseph's in the second half Wednesday night to remain atop the conference with a 70-53 decision at Chaifetz Arena. Dwayne Evans paced the Billikens (22-5, 11-2 Atlantic 10) with 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds while Rob Loe added 11 points and Mike McCall, Jr. netted 10 as they upped their league lead to a game over Virginia Commonwealth. It was the 10th straight win for SLU since an embarrassing 82-80 overtime loss Jan. 19 to Rhode Island, the conference's 14th place team. Since then, the Billikens have won games by an average of more than 14 points. "It's just a matter of playing as hard as we can and playing with a purpose," forward Cory Remekun said. The Billikens took charge in the first 9:27 of the second half, ripping off a 21-5 run to establish a 50-32 advantage. Typical of their balanced nature, seven different players contributed to the spurt, including a three-point play from Jake Barnett that capped a possession on which SLU got four shots. Kwamain Mitchell and Jordair Jett each had five points in the run, capped by Jett's twisting layup that drew sustained applause from a near-sellout crowd of 10,012. "We came out for the second half with points of emphasis, and I thought we responded well," Billikens interim coach Jim Crews said. "We were a little too anxious on defense and they were stretching us out. In the second half, we were a little more sound, and that created good situations for us." St. Joseph's (15-11, 6-7) scored on just three of its first 13 possessions, although it wasn't all because of fierce defense. As they did in the first half, the Hawks missed a spate of open looks, going 2 of 10 to start the last 20 minutes. They finished the night at 15 of 46 from the field, or 32.6 percent, and made just 3 of 17 from the 3-point arc. "That's the story of our year," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "It's not a matter of trying harder, but we've got to shoot better. They shot layups and we missed layups, missed 3s, missed free throws. That was the difference in the game." Ronald Roberts scored a game-high 25 points on just 10 shot attempts for the Hawks, who were picked to win the A-10 but are tied for 10th in the 16-team league. Langston Galloway added 11, but made just 2-of-11 shots from the field. Carl Jones hit just 1-of-9 and scored just two points after entering the game averaging a team-high 14.7 points per game. Saint Louis appeared sluggish for most of the first half, perhaps a hangover effect from emotional wins last week over No. 24 VCU and 15th-ranked Butler that pushed it atop the conference. Still, the Billikens led for most of the half, upping their advantage to 27-17 with 4:03 on the clock when Evans powered past a defender for a layup. Remekun, who entered the game averaging just five points, scored seven in an 87-second stretch to get Saint Louis going. St. Joseph's pushed back into contention with a 10-2 spurt to close the half, getting two free throws and a 3-pointer from Langston Galloway to cut the deficit to 29-27. SLU dominated the second half and moved a step closer to winning the A-10. It owns tiebreakers on VCU and Butler and merely needs to win two of its final three games to earn the top seed for the conference tournament. Not that Crews is keeping track. "I hate to be bland or boring, but we don't talk about it," he said. "All we worry about is getting in a stance, bending your knees ... those type of things." NOTES: Saint Louis was playing its first game as a ranked team since last November, when it won the 76 Classic title and earned a No. 23 rating. It then lost at Loyola Marymount and dropped out the following week, not returning until this week. ... With a turnover margin of plus 4.1 per game, the Billikens are ranked second in the A10 behind VCU and 11th in Division I. ... St. Joseph's forward Halil Kanacevic made his first start since a Dec. 11 game at Villanova, replacing Chris Wilson, who had started the Hawks' last 17 games.
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