Game Preview: Saint Louis


by: John Chase

The Washington Huskies (3-0) take on the Saint Louis Billkens (2-0) this Sunday at 9am. This was supposed to be a homecoming game for not only Lorenzo Romar who spent a few years as the program’s head coach, but also Scott Suggs. Unfortunately Suggs will not be healthy enough to play, still recovering from his foot surgery that took place just before the onset of the season.

The Billkens have been extremely stringent on defense this year, holding Tennessee State to 37 points and Southern Illinois to 42 points while scoring 71 and 61 respectively. Saint Louis was able to hold the two teams to 29% and 20% shooting respectively and completely shut down any offense they had to offer.

These numbers are a credit to the effort being put out by the Billkens players, but it is also a testament to the low level talent that Saint Louis has played thus far. SIU is averaging only 52 points on the year, while TSU is averaging about 56 points. I commend the Billkens for their job well done thus far, but I hardly expect this to be a true test of the Huskies’ ability to cope with a good team on the road. Joe Lunardi currently has Saint Louis as a member of the “Next Four Out,” making them a top 100 team, but well enough outside the top 50 that they should not be considered a huge threat. I fully expect this to be a somewhat competitive game due to the Billkens’ ability to slow the game down to their tempo. With a 66 point average on the year, Saint Louis is not a high scoring team and will likely have troubles dealing with the high octane offense UW brings to the table.

Saint Louis is led by a pair of forwards who do a little of everything for their team. Brian Conklin is a 6-6 230lb forward with considerable muscle to power through the opposition defense. He currently leads the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game and third in rebounding at 4.5 per game. He is also 100% from the free throw line at 9-9, something Tony Wroten Jr. would be good to take note of. He is shooting 67% from the field and has yet to take a 3-pointer. Cody Ellis, on the other hand, is 50% from range and is second in scoring at 12 points per game. At 6-8 and 240lb, Ellis is another big body UW will have to contend with. Ellis is second in rebounding at 5 per game.

Kwamain Mitchell is the all around guy for the Billkens. With a team high 5.5 rebounds to go along with his 9 point average and 6 assists per game, the 5-10 175lb guard is a tough match-up for most teams. UW should be able to contain him with superior size and skill in the backcourt.

Saint Louis do have some size in the center with 6-11 240lb Rob Loe. He is more of a defensive presence than an offensive presence as shown by his less than stellar statistics of 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. He is 2-8 from the field and 1-4 from range, indicating the big man likes to move around the court. This could be more troublesome for UW who often depends on Aziz N’Diaye being able to stay closer to home and suck up the paint. This puts a bit more pressure on our guards’ defensive efforts as they will not be able to guarantee a secondary defender in the post should their man beat them.

Backup center, John Manning, stands at 6-11 as well, but at only 200lb he resembles Washington’s own Jernard Jerreau. He is a thin body with work in the weight room to be done before he can significantly contribute to the Billkens effort.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups:

Saint Louis:

Kwamain Mitchell G 5-10 175lb
Kyle Cassidy G 6-4 200lb
Dwayne Evans F 6-5 205lb
Brian Conklin F 6-6 230lb
Rob Loe F 6-11 240lb


Abdul Gaddy G 6-3 185lb
C.J. Wilcox G 6-5 190lb
Terrence Ross G 6-6 195lb
Darnell Gant F 6-8 230lb
Aziz N’Diaye C 7-0 260lb

Keys to the Game:

Rebounding – This is a category UW should be dominate in, yet the past weekend showed the Husky faithful that there is work to be done in the paint. While several players are averaging very respectable numbers, the combined totals just are adding up as high as we might like. UW is currently averaging a bit over 41 boards per game, but I would like to see that number be closer to 45 a game. Washington has a chance to do some damage in the middle this Sunday as the Billkens currently grab less than 33 boards per game. UW is picking up 13 offensive boards a game compared to 8 for Saint Louis. This is a huge statistical advantage for the Huskies and they would do well to take advantage of that. Add in that the leading rebounder for the Billkens is a 5-10 guard and you have a recipe for what could be a strong rebounding outing for the Dawgs.

Backcourt Pressure – The Huskies are strongest where the majority of the Billkens success comes from: the backcourt. The Huskies will need to provide stiff pressure on the perimeter to prevent entry passes to the frontcourt as well as allowing the Husky post players to step out and defend their men without risking too many open opportunities in the paint. If I was Lorenzo Romar, I’d be placing C.J. Wilcox on which ever guard is a stronger player. He has shown immense defensive capabilities and swats the ball with authority.

Get the Offense Going Early – UW is known for slow starts on occasion, but such has not been the case as of late. UW has only been behind for 9 seconds this entire year. Take that in for just a moment. Only 9 seconds. Yes, the competition has been below average, but Washington has taken care of business and kept the lead, no matter how close the game got. They have done this by scoring early and in bunches. With 6 players averaging double digit scoring (I am including N’Diaye as his average is close enough) UW has a variety of scoring options they will need to utilize. By spreading the ball around, Saint Louis will struggle to contain the Husky offense and could be worn out early on if the Dawgs can pass well and quickly.

Final Score Prediction: UW-85 SLU-70

The Husky offense is so fast that the Billkens will likely see a few more possession than they are used to. At the same time, the Billkens’ style of offense will likely mean less opportunities than usual for the Huskies. I don’t see the Saint Louis offense being able to compete with UW and I certainly don’t expect the Billkens to find the same amount of defensive success this weekend as they are used to. SLU will remain close for the first 10 minutes or so until the superior UW bench wears down the SLU players at which point I expect Washington to breakout and take over. Go Dawgs!