Saint Louis wins record 15th straight vs. Saint Joseph

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- The Saint Louis Billikens on Wednesday earned their 15th straight victory, breaking the former mark of 14 straight wins set by the 1958-59 squad, with a 65-49 win over Saint Joseph's Hawks.

Senior forward Rob Loe was the leading scorer for the 13th-ranked Billikens, scoring a team-high 17 points while shooting 3 of 5 from three-point range.

The Hawks were led by forward Ronald Roberts Jr., who scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the loss.

The Billikens and their top-10 defense turned the heat up on the Hawks, forcing them to score their lowest point total of the year. The previous low for Saint Joe's was 60 points in a Jan. 29 win over Dayton.

That suffocating defense also forced the Hawks to shoot 15 of 47 (31.9 percent), their lowest shooting percentage of the season. Their prior season-low came against Villanova, when Saint Joe's shot 36.7 percent from the field.

"We were exceptionally good defensively tonight," Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said. "We really paid attention to detail, we wanted to play team defense and the five guys on their floor, you really had to pay attention to their individual characteristics.

"Our guys did a really good job of having multiple efforts and anticipating things and disrupting the flow."

After having success at the free-throw line in the game's first 20 minutes, the Hawks came out in the second half driving into the lane and drawing fouls. They wouldn't have the same success in the first half, however, as they were only able to convert 9 of their 17 second-half attempts at the charity stripe.

Saint Joe's stepped up its defense midway through the second half, as it scored six straight points while forcing the Billikens to shot 0-for-7 in a three-minute stretch to bring the lead down to seven points.

Saint Louis responded with 16-5 run that brought its lead back to double digits, where it would stay for the rest of the game.

"It's challenging," Saint Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "I thought we had a way, but a lot of times we end up with not a good-quality shot. The crispness in offense, we've lost our rhythm. This was not a rhythmatic game with only five assists and over-dribbling. It was a big spot, we didn't answer the moment."

Saint Joe's struck first, scoring the game's first five points. But the Billikens were able to respond with nine straight points of their own after Saint Joe's couldn't find the bottom of the net. During the stretch, the Hawks turned the ball over three times and missed two 3-pointers before forward Halil Kanacevic ended the dry spell.

Despite looking at an early deficit, the Hawks were able to keep pace by converting at the free throw line. Saint Joe's shot 9 of 12 from the charity stripe in the first half, a mark that helped bring the Billikens' lead down to one.

Saint Louis responded by going on a 16-2 run that brought the Billikens' lead to 15. Guard Austin McBroom was the catalyst during the run, scoring seven points in six minutes, as St. Louis took a 13-point advantage into the halftime.

With three starters drawing two fouls each in the first half, the Billiken bench was able to shine. The Saint Louis reserves scored 14 of the 35 first half points, ended the game with 20 and came up with key defensive stops in the second half.

"It's really great when you can rely on people like that," Loe said. "You've got 10 or 11 guys that can all play and it's something that really helps this team. Anyone can step up at any given minute."

While the winning streak will put this Saint Louis team in the school record books, with a chance to keep it going against another Philadelphia team in La Salle on Saturday, Crews knows that extending the stretch isn't on the minds of any players or coaches.

"It's great but it doesn't cross our mind, we don't really think about it," Crews said. "If we lose, it's not the end of the world and if we win another one, it's not the end of the world. We just kind of play."

NOTES: The Billikens haven't been on the road often, but they've been able to capitalize in hostile territory. After the win, Saint Louis improved to 8-0 in road games. ... Saint Louis snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Hawks. Before Wednesday's win, the last time the Billikens topped the Hawks was in 2006, when they defeated them 56-37 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. ... Saint Joe's forward Halil Kanacevic is the first Hawk ever to reach 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 300 assists in a career. The senior was honored before the game.
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