Fantasy Football 2014:

St. Louis stuns Butler to create Atlantic 10 logjam

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- As fans from a record-breaking crowd of 10,612 flooded the floor Thursday night, Saint Louis interim coach Jim Crews thought about the last time he saw a court-storming.

"Last year, when my third grade girls team won," he quipped. "Four moms came out on the floor."

Many more than that hit the Chaifetz Arena court to celebrate the Billikens' biggest win of the season, a 75-58 drilling of No. 9 Butler that created a seven-team logjam in the balanced Atlantic 10 Conference as the calendar flips to February.

Reserve Jordair Jett scored a game-high 19 points for the Billikens (15-5, 4-2), while Dwayne Evans added 15 and Rob Loe hit for 12 points. It was the second win over a ranked team in a month for SLU, which trounced New Mexico 60-46 on New Year's Eve.

This one was much more stunning -- not just that the game was never really close for much of the second half, but how it was decided. Saint Louis' defense completely inhaled the Bulldogs (17-4, 4-2), forcing 23 turnovers -- the most in coach Brad Stevens' six seasons -- and converting them into 26 points.

"We were just thinking that we had to step on them," Jett said, "and that's how we played."

Rotnei Clarke led Butler (17-4, 4-2) with a game-high 17 points and Andrew Smith contributed 12. However, the Bulldogs never got the game closer than 11 points in the second half as they fell into a five-way tie for second place in the A-10, a half-game behind Virginia Commonwealth and Xavier.

Stevens said there was no great secret to how the Billikens dominated.

"Any time a team turns it over as much as we did, it's sloppiness," he said. "But (Saint Louis) was active. They made us not play well. It was really obvious that they had their way with us."

Butler entered the game averaging just 12.4 turnovers with a season high of 18, but it committed 16 in the first 17 minutes and fell into a hole from which it couldn't dig out of late in the first half.

Emerging from a deep shooting slump which saw it miss 10 of its first 15 shots -- many on clean looks -- Saint Louis scored on eight straight possessions to open up a 31-14 lead on Rob Loe's 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the first half. As Stevens asked for timeout, the building shook with excitement.

Butler quickly rattled off nine straight points, with Clarke converting a 4-point play, to draw within 31-23. But Jett finished off a 13-point half by burying a 3 with 7.5 seconds left, giving the Billikens an 11-point lead at halftime.

It was quickly apparent that things wouldn't get any better for the Bulldogs after halftime. Mike McCall, Jr. drilled consecutive 3s to give Saint Louis a 42-25 lead 92 seconds into the second half. The Billikens kept Butler at arm's length after that, expanding their lead to 20 points with 2:09 remaining.

Saint Louis outscored the Bulldogs 51-22 in the paint and 19-2 in fast-break opportunities, much of it coming off its sticky defense.

"Guys really worked on defense, pressuring the passing lanes," Loe said. "We wanted to get them out of their comfort zone and I thought we did."

The result not only projects the Billikens squarely into the conference race, but gives Crews' candidacy for the full-time coaching job a major boost. An assistant to Rick Majerus last year, Crews was named interim coach on Aug. 24 when Majerus took a leave of absence to treat a heart condition which ultimately led to his death on Dec. 1.

Last night's losing coach can certainly vouch for Crews, who has won 383 games in a 25-year career spent mostly at Evansville and Army.

"As good of a coach as there is around," Stevens said. "They made all the right passes tonight. It was a joy to watch one team play, but it wasn't mine."

NOTES: Butler was the highest-ranked team to visit Saint Louis since No. 2 North Carolina played at Scottrade Center during the 2006-07 campaign ... The Billikens' Cody Ellis was one of three players to lead his team in scoring (11.2 points per game) despite not starting a game. The other two were DeQuan Hicks (14.7) of Northwestern State and Malcolm Miller (16.7) of Southern ... Smith is the only active Division I player who has played in two national championship games, doing so in 2010 and 2011.

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