By Paul Gotham
BROOKLYN, NY — Overlooked. That might be one way to describe the existence of St. Louis forward Dwayne Evans. There was no mention of Evans a year ago on the Atlantic 10’s post-season first, second or third team All-Conference selections.
In similar fashion, the junior from Bolingbrook, Illinois was skipped over for the 2012-13 pre-season teams.
His play during this regular season earned him first team honors but few headlines. That’s what happens to vertically challenged 6-5 guys.
Overlooked, until now.
Two games in less than 28 hours on the Barclays Center court and Evans might register on the talk-of-the-town meter.
Friday afternoon, Evans hit eight-of nine from the floor and all nine of his free throws in 24 of playing time as the Billikens dispatched Charlotte, 72-55. For an encore, Evans registered a double-double Saturday afternoon. Tattooing Butler with 24 points and 11 rebounds as SLU downed the Bulldogs, 67-56. The win was the third year for the Bills over the team which has been nationally ranked several weeks.
Evans scored 11 straight points during a critical juncture of the second half as the Billikens turned a single-possession game into a double-digit margin. He knocked down four straight buckets in the lane. First came a turnaround jumper. Then he sealed Butler’s Roosevelt Jones in the lane. Teammate Rob Loe delivered a lob from the top of the key, and Evans finished at the rim.
“He’s a very physical player. He’s probably the most physical player that I ever played against in my life,” Jones said. “I really thought that he should have been Player of the Year in the conference.”
Evans stretched the St. Louis advantage to ten with a jump hook in the lane. He capped his run with another turnaround jumper in the lane. After a free throw, he had traditional three-point play and a 59-47 Billiken bulge.
Using his body as a fulcrum, Evans pins, seals and renders defenders nearly helpless in the lane. Once the ball is in his hands, he uses deft footwork to get to the basket.
“He’s kind of got a body type like me, but he’s taller than me, so he’s able to outphysical me,” Jones continued. “I’ve never played against anybody that physical. So he got the best of me today.”
Evans eschews style for substance preferring to grind it out on the floor rather than embark on a quest for spots on highlight reels. The old school style of play earns the jabs of at least one teammate.
“He can’t dunk,” Cody Ellis said with a smile when considering Evans style of play.
To which Evans replied: “Don’t be fooled. It’s just a choice… I like the ground game. I don’t know. I’m going to go out and dunk on them all just to prove you wrong on that one.”
“He’s probably a better athlete than people may realize, but he’s always got a body on him when he’s jumping, which makes it harder to jump,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. “He is such a physical basketball player. It’s not just on the offensive end. He’s great in the post. He can post anybody from our 6’11” center to a guard.”
Evans played limited minutes in Friday’s quarter-final win because of foul trouble. He picked up his second infraction with 7:32 remaining in the first half. He went to the bench and didn’t return until after the break.
“He’s not a big jumper, but he’s an explosive guy getting off the floor, and he’s got a soft touch,” explained SLU head coach Jim Crews. “He keeps his knees bent and his eyes up and plays slow. Some guys have a feel for where the bucket is‑‑ it sounds stupid because that bucket doesn’t move, but you’ve got to have a sense where that bucket is, and he’s got a great sense where that bucket is.”
His double-double was the sixth this season and 18th of his career for Evans.
Evans and the Billikens will take on VCU Sunday afternoon. The trip marks the first ever to the A10 championship in the history of the St. Louis program. The Billikens held VCU without a field goal for more than ten minutes en route to a 76-62 win at Chaifetz Arena. It was the eighth straight win for the team that has now triumphed in 14 of its last 15. A 1:00 pm tip off is scheduled.