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Saint Louis beats No. 15 Butler for 9th straight win

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler coach Brad Stevens has been singing Saint Louis' praises for about a month now, and he felt his comments were being ignored.

Not anymore. Mike McCall Jr. scored 18 points and Dwayne Evans added 17 to help Saint Louis defeat the 15th-ranked Bulldogs 65-61 on Friday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Kwamain Mitchell added 12 points for the Billikens (21-5, 10-2 Atlantic 10), who won their ninth straight overall and swept the regular-season series with the Bulldogs.

Stevens became a believer when Saint Louis rolled past his team 75-58 on Jan. 31.

"That's a really good basketball team," he said. "They've got good players, they've got a good coach. I thought we played hard, I thought they played hard. They beat us."

Saint Louis, which was coming off a 76-62 win over No. 24 Virginia Commonwealth, now leads VCU by a game in the conference race. The Billikens have done it all with a relatively simple approach.

"We come with the same mindset every game," Evans said. "We pressure people, make people play against five people on defense and don't give up too many easy buckets. Twice this year (against Butler) it's worked out for us, and hopefully down the road, it will pay dividends for us."

The back-to-back wins over ranked teams carry no extra meaning for interim head coach Jim Crews.

"Each family knows what the truth is in those homes, and our locker room knows the truth, and our self-worth isn't trying to please somebody here or there or some poll," he said. "You'll never be happy in life if you do that."

Kellen Dunham scored 14 points for Butler, but he was scoreless in the second half. Rotnei Clarke and Roosevelt Jones each scored 13 points for the Bulldogs (22-6, 9-4).

Butler led by five at halftime, but Saint Louis opened the second half on fire. Two baskets each by Evans and Mitchell highlighted a 10-2 run as the Billikens took a 39-36 lead.

Saint Louis continued to attack. Two more buckets by Mitchell, including one on a lightning-quick fast break after a missed 3-pointer by Dunham, gave the Billikens a 48-41 lead.

Saint Louis' Jake Barnett was fouled on a 3-point try, and he made two of three free throws to put the Billikens up 53-44.

Butler rallied, beginning with a 3-pointer by Clarke. A layup by Andrew Smith helped the Bulldogs cut the Billikens' lead to 55-51. A pair of free throws by Jones cut Saint Louis' lead to 59-58.

Saint Louis held on, despite making just two of six free throws in the final 37 seconds.

Smith got the home crowd going early. He was on the ground when he delivered a perfect pass to an open Khyle Marshall, who dunked to give Butler a quick 4-0 lead.

Saint Louis countered, and a bucket by Evans gave the Billikens a 9-7 edge.

Clarke and Dunham each made a 3-pointer during an 8-0 run that gave Butler a 15-9 lead, and the Billikens called timeout. Saint Louis rallied, and a bucket by Jordair Jett cut Butler's lead to 22-20.

Smith scored on a putback, then added a left-handed hook as part of a 7-0 run that helped the Bulldogs push their lead back out to 29-20.

Saint Louis got a quick four points from Evans to trim Butler's lead to five. McCall scored, was fouled and made the free throw to make it a two-point game again.

Dunham's 3-pointer with 54 seconds left in the first half helped the Bulldogs lead 34-29 at halftime.

Butler shot 52 percent in the first half while Saint Louis shot 36 percent and made just 1 of 10 3-pointers.

The Billikens bounced back and shot 52 percent in the second half, when they took control with their speed.

"Mike McCall is fast. Jordair Jett is really fast, and Kwamain Mitchell is just as fast as Jett," Stevens said. "They're as good a backcourt as any in the league, and that's saying something."

Stevens, who has led two teams to the national finals, said there are no limits to what Saint Louis can accomplish this season.

"They can go as far as they want to go," he said.

Crews said he's proud of the way his team has emerged.

"It's great to win, but how they've come together -- they've encouraged each other, passed their knowledge, they have great wisdom of the program, they've been very humble with having some success," he said. "Those are the things I'm proud of."

NOTES: Saint Louis was the first team in the others receiving votes category of the Associated Press top 25 poll this week. ... Saint Louis committed just two turnovers in the first half and four in the game. Butler committed 14. ... Stevens has the second-most wins by a coach in the first six years of his career. ... Smith recently was named a Capital One second-team Academic All-American.
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