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Saint Louis-George Mason Preview

AP - Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- - Saint Louis just keeps piling up the wins.

Though the No. 10 Billikens' streak is at 17, their next opponent gave them one of their biggest scares during that run.

Saint Louis looks to make it 18 in a row Wednesday night when it visits last-place George Mason, which took the conference's top team to overtime earlier this month.

The Billikens (23-2, 10-0) moved into the top 10 for the first time in nearly 50 years on Monday, hard-earned recognition for a school closing in on a second straight Atlantic 10 Conference title.

"They're a terrific team," VCU coach Shaka Smart said after his team's 64-62 loss to Saint Louis on Saturday. "They have all the elements - great coaching, very good talent, experience."

The Billikens, in the midst of the longest winning streak in school history, moved up two spots from the previous week. The ranking is the school's best since it was No. 9 in the poll on Dec. 29, 1964.

"I think we're good," guard Jordair Jett said. "But we've got a lot of room for improvement, so we're going to take it day by day."

That's a typical reaction from players and coach Jim Crews, in his second season after taking over for the late Rick Majerus. After the VCU win, Crews was unapologetic about leaning on "coach speak" - as in taking it one game at a time.

"I like our position," Crews said. "The kids are doing unbelievably good."

Saint Louis has a three-game lead heading into the game at George Mason (9-16, 2-9). The 10-0 conference start is one win shy of the school mark set in the 1946-47 season when it was in the Missouri Valley.

"We were playing high-level basketball last year and we are this year, too," Evans said. "We'll try to keep it rolling."

The Billikens' past two wins have been decided by a total of four points, and their first victory in February required overtime. Saint Louis trailed for almost the entire second half Feb. 1 at home before forcing five extra minutes and beating George Mason 87-81.

The Patriots' Bryon Allen had a career-high 30 points, but the Billikens' Rob Loe hit a tying 3 late in regulation before scoring 10 of his team-high 23 in overtime.

"It doesn't feel good enough," Allen said after the loss. "We didn't get the win so I can care less if it's 30 or zero. It doesn't matter. I just want to win and losing hurts. We're all tired of losing so all we can is keep fighting."

George Mason has won two straight on the road, beating Duquesne on Feb. 8 before stunning Massachusetts last Wednesday, but its home skid was extended to five with Saturday's 85-73 loss to St. Bonaventure. The Patriots haven't dropped six straight in Fairfax since Dec. 30, 1994-Jan. 25, 1995.

Now they'll get another look at Saint Louis, which is among the nation's top 10 scoring defenses (58.9 points per game). George Mason's 81 points in the first meeting were the most the Billikens have allowed this season, albeit with five extra minutes.

The Saint Louis starters all played 33 or more minutes against VCU and responded to a late surge. The Billikens squandered a 12-point lead, but after VCU tied it late, Saint Louis scored seven consecutive points to put the game out of reach.

"I think it's been a great character trait of our guys that they do respond," Crews said. "That doesn't mean we're going to win all the time. They don't quit on things. Even if we would have lost, they didn't quit on things."

Saint Louis is looking to improve to 10-0 in true road games this season.

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