NEW YORK -- Dwayne Evans scored 24 points and had 11 rebounds to lead St. Louis to its first Atlantic 10 tournament final, as the 16th-ranked Billikens knocked Butler out of its first A-10 tournament, 67-56, on Saturday. Cody Ellis added 13 points for the top-seeded Billikens at the Barclays Center. St. Louis (26-6) will play the winner of the Massachusetts-Virginia Commonwealth game for the title on Sunday at 1 p.m. Rotnei Clarke scored 16 points for fifth-seeded Butler (26-8, 13-6), which fell to St. Louis for the third time this season, the Bulldogs' first in the A-10. The Bulldogs left the Horizon League a year earlier than expected amid reports the league would seek to ban it from postseason tournament play, and Butler tried to make the most of its first run in the A-10 tournament. The game was tightly contested for the first 30 minutes, before Evans helped the Billikens pull away, although it was a methodical process that began largely at the free-throw line. St. Louis finished with more than double the free-throw attempts of Butler and first opened some breathing room from the line. Up by two at halftime, the Billikens created a nine-point cushion with an 8-0 run, with six of the points coming at the free-throw line. Mike McCall Jr. hit a layup and a foul for a 3-point play. Evans soon followed with two free throws and Cory Remekun hit one of two for a seven-point advantage. Evans then knocked down two more on Butler center Andrew Smith's fourth foul with 7:45 remaining for a 50-41 lead. Evans' free throws were first two of 12 straight points he would score for St. Louis, his inside presence increasingly hurting Butler. Included in the spurt were two jumpers and a layup, as he helped the Billikens build a 60-47 lead with 3:29 remaining. St. Louis entered halftime with a 27-25 lead after finishing the half on a 10-1 run. Evans led the Billikens with eight points before the break while Ellis added six, including a 3-pointer to tie the game during the stretch. Rob Loe's layup with two seconds left in the half gave St. Louis its first lead since the game's first two minutes. Clarke led Butler with 10 points at the half, including two 3-pointers that erased an early deficit to give Butler its first lead. NOTES: Brad Baer, a 29-year-old teacher at Temple who attended the A-10 tournament to support Xavier for a friend, won $10,000 by hitting a halfcourt shot at halftime. As the crowd cheered, Baer ran and slid on the court, while raising his hands for more cheers after swishing the shot on the run. "It didn't work out too well," Baer said of supporting his friend's Xavier team, which lost in the first round. "Worked out well for me. I'm shocked." ... St. Louis had defeated Butler twice during the regular season, routing the Bulldogs at home, 75-58, on Jan. 13 and topping them again with a 65-61 road win on Feb. 22. ... At halftime, a collection of members and representatives of the inaugural Atlantic 10 Legends class for men and women were honored on the court. The initial class had 32 members, with 16 each for the men and women.
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- Dwayne Evans