ST. LOUIS -- It took a half for newly-ranked Saint Louis to get into rhythm.
But the No. 18 Billikens, playing their first home game as a ranked team since 1994, pulled away from St. Joseph's in the second half Wednesday night to remain atop the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 70-53 decision at Chaifetz Arena.
Dwayne Evans paced SLU (22-5, 11-2) with 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Rob Loe added 11 points and Mike McCall Jr. netted 10. Ronald Roberts scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting for the Hawks (15-11, 6-7), who saw a three-game winning streak end.
The Billikens took charge in the first 9:26 of the second half, ripping off a 21-5 run to establish a 50-32 advantage. Typical of their balanced nature, seven different players contributed to the spurt, including a three-point play from Jake Barnett that capped a possession on which SLU got four shots.
St. Joseph's scored on just three of its first 13 possessions, although it wasn't all because of fierce defense. As they did in the first half, the Hawks missed a spate of open looks, going 2 of 10 to start the last 20 minutes.
They finished the night at 15 of 45 from the field, or 34.1 percent, and made just 3 of 16 from the 3-point arc.
Saint Louis appeared sluggish for most of the first half, perhaps a hangover effect from emotional wins last week over No. 24 VCU and 15th-ranked Butler that pushed it atop the conference.
Still, it led for most of the half, upping the advantage to 27-17 with 4:03 on the clock when Evans powered past a defender for a layup. Reserve forward Cory Remekun, who entered the game averaging just five points, scored seven in an 87-second stretch to get the Billikens going.
But St. Joseph's pushed back into contention with a 10-2 spurt to close the half, getting two free throws and a 3-pointer from Langston Galloway to cut the deficit to 29-27.
NOTES: Saint Louis was playing its first game as a ranked team since last November, when it won the 76 Classic title and earned a No. 23 rating. It then lost at Loyola Marymount and dropped out the following week, not returning until this week. ... With a turnover margin of plus 4.1 per game, the Billikens are ranked second in the A10 behind VCU and 11th in Division I. ... St. Joseph's forward Halil Kanacevic made his first start since a Dec. 11 game at Villanova, replacing Chris Wilson, who had started the Hawks' last 17 games.