Saint Louis 78, La Salle 54

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Rob Loe couldn't miss. And in the second half, his Saint Louis teammates followed suit.
Connecting on 17 of 20 field goal attempts after halftime, the No. 15 Billikens clinched at least a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference title and the top seed for next week's conference tournament with a 78-54 decision Saturday over La Salle.
Loe hit every shot he tried -- 7-of-7 from the field, including three 3-pointers, and all three of his free throws -- to score a game-high 20 points for SLU (24-6, 13-3). Dwayne Evans added 16 points and 17 rebounds, while Kwamain Mitchell kicked in 19 points and six assists.
Virginia Tech transfer Tyrone Garland came off the bench to lead the Explorers (21-8, 11-5) with 15 points, while Tyreek Duren contributed 13 and Sam Mills tallied 12. But Ramon Galloway, the team's top scorer at 17.8 ppg, made just 3-of-12 shots and managed only eight points before fouling out with 3:50 remaining.
La Salle could have tied for the A-10 title and earned the top seed with a win. The Explorers appeared to be in position to do so when they rattled off seven straight points for a 27-23 lead with 3:27 left in the first half. But the Billikens closed the half with an 8-2 spurt, capped by Evans' layup with 42.9 seconds remaining, to grab a 31-29 edge at intermission.
Saint Louis set the second half's tone by going inside to the 6-foot-11 Loe against the 6-2 Mills on the first possession, resulting in a layup. The Billikens then rattled off 10 scores in 11 possessions, gradually pulling away from the Explorers.
The Billikens held La Salle 19 points under its average, allowing it to make just 40.4 percent from the field and only 2-of-15 from the 3-point line.
The lead grew to 24 points in the last minute as the near-capacity crowd of 10,272 at Chaifetz Arena chanted "A-10 champs" and "Rick Majerus" in honor of the coach who died Dec. 1 from a heart condition.
NOTES: Before the game, the Saint Louis pep band honored Cody Ellis, one of the team's four seniors, by playing the Australian national anthem. ... This is the first time the Billikens have been ranked in consecutive weeks since the 1993-94 season. ... La Salle has won 20 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1988-89 and 1989-90, when Lionel Simmons was its star player. ... The visiting team won five of the previous six meetings in this series.

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