BROOKLYN, NY – By the time Dwayne Evans missed his first shot of the afternoon it didn’t matter. The St. Louis Billikens were well on their way to the Atlantic 10 semi-final round.
Dwayne Evans led all with 25 as the SLU Billikens ran past the Charlotte 49ers, 72-55 in the quarter-final round of the A10 championships at the Barclays Center Friday afternoon.
Evans hit eight-of-nine from the floor and all nine of his free throws on the afternoon as the Bills advanced to the A10 semis for the second consecutive year. The junior forward did his work in the paint as the Bills doubled up Charlotte early and forced the 49ers to call a pair of timeouts in the first eight minutes of the game.
“We have a bunch of guys who are really good three-point shooters,” Evans said. “You have to cover them. It leaves the inside open. We kinda play in-out. Sometimes you go out to in. It was just effective because we have a bunch of guys who can do a bunch of different things. It’s hard to guard that many weapons.”
Evans tallied nine in the first seven and a half minutes as SLU led wire-to-wire. His layup at 12:26 mark of the first half gave St. Louis a 16-8 advantage and forced Charlotte’s second timeout of the young game.
“We have some of the best passers in America out there,” Evans added. “A lot of those passes I hardly saw coming. That’s something we stress in practice and facilitate in the game.”
Mike McCall, Jr. drove baseline and threaded a pass through traffic to Evans in the lane for the bucket.
“He’s a big post presence for us,” McCall Jr. said of his teammate. “He scores almost every time down there or he gets fouled. That’s something that we want.”
As usual, the St. Louis defense ignited its offense forcing five Charlotte turnovers in the first seven minutes converting those opportunities into seven points.
“Our defense we weren’t gambling,” Evans noted. “We were just following the steals, making solid defensive plays. That’s what really contributed to the run.”
Kwamain Mitchell stepped in the passing for a steal on Charlotte’s first possession and turned it into traditional three-point play for Evans at the other end. On the next trip, Grandy Glaze went to the floor for a steal. The sophomore led Mitchell into the open floor on a play where Rob Loe eventually scored at the rim.
“Basketball game is not a game of perfect,” explained St. Louis head coach Jim Crews. “And so you’re going to make mistakes. When you make a mistake, or things aren’t going your way, you just try to do the next right thing. That doesn’t mean things are going to go well, but if you just keep doing the next right thing eventually good things will happen. Our guys have really had a good mentality with that type of attitude.”
McCall Jr. helped the Bills do the next right thing sparking a 13-0 run midway through the first half as the Billikens doubled up Charlotte.
“Teams are going to make runs against us all the time,” McCall said. “We just get into the huddle and say that we need to go on to the next play.”
McCall nailed a three from the top of the key for a 22-16 Billiken advantage. By the time he followed his own miss and kicked to Cody Ellis and on to Rob Loe for a trey, the Bills led 32-16.
In between, McCall scored four, dished out an assist and had a steal. After the three starting the spurt, McCall used a Dwayne Evans ball screen to get space for a floater just outside the lane. On the next trip, the junior guard found Kwamain Mitchell early in the shot clock for a trifecta. He followed with a steal and layup.
SLU’s defense started the final basket in the run. Ellis deflected a pass to Mitchell who led the break finding McCall on the left wing for the first look of the possession. SLU’s lead had ballooned to 16 at 32-16.
Charlotte called its third timeout of the half and went to an odd-front zone defense with three guards high.
The defensive switch slowed the Bills and Charlotte cut its deficit to single digits.
Willie Clayton dropped a jump hook in the lane. Chris Braswell scored four straight hitting a pair of free throws before finishing a pretty spin on the baseline for a bucket. Braswell then fed Clayton in the lane cutting the lead to 36-26. Pierria Henry nailed a baseline jumper to trim the lead to 36-28.
But the 49ers never really challenged in the second half.
Braswell drained a catch-and-shoot three from Denzel Ingram to trim the lead to seven with 13:03 remaining.
The Bills responded with nine straight, Evans capped the spurt with a baseline jumper.
“They were just speeding us up,” Braswell said of SLU’s defense. “We were just rushing trying to make home run passes. They were in help and got those steals. They we’re just eating us up.”
Ellis was the only other Billiken in double figures with 13 on three-of-13 shooting from the floor and six-of-six from the free throw line.
Evans missed a layup with 7:32 to go.
Loe, McCall and Mitchell each handed out four assists.
Braswell notched a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
SLU’s defense forced 20 Charlotte turnovers. The 49ers had 14 assists on 19 field goals.
SLU moves on to play the winner of the Butler-La Salle game. Tip time Saturday is scheduled for 1:30 pm. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.