Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Billikens Impress by Using Press in Desperation Move against North Carolina Central

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Billikens Impress by Using Press in Desperation Move against North Carolina Central

Article excerpt

St. Louis University, described by coach Travis Ford recently as the definition of a team that wins with defense, looked like it couldn't play a lick in the first half Wednesday night.

North Carolina Central shredded SLU for 20 minutes and simultaneously used its own pressure to fluster the Billikens.

Then Jordan Goodwin and Fred Thatch Jr. transformed SLU from the hunted into the hunter.

The Billikens turned to a little-used fullcourt press after a slow start to the second half, produced a flurry of NC Central turnovers and quickly scored 30 points to pull away to a 74-65 win at Chaifetz Arena.

"Even at halftime, I said I wasn't going to get upset," Ford said. "We made a few adjustments at halftime that didn't work, so we decided to press and it changed the game. When you get desperate, it's going to go one of two ways, and we played with desperation for 15 minutes.

"The press changed the game. The energy changed the game. I went from seeing a group that looked like zombies to a group that was energized."

After scoring 31 points in the first 22 minutes, the Billikens (8-3) went on a 30-4 run that spanned a mere 8 minutes, 46 seconds. The outburst turned an 11-point deficit into a 15-point lead.

Previously challenged on fast-break opportunities, SLU executed its transition game to near perfection during that stretch as steals turned into breakaway dunks and layups. The Billikens turned NC Central's 24 turnovers into 31 points.

The Eagles (4-9) scored the first six points of the second half to go ahead 42-31, prompting a SLU timeout. The Billikens finally awoke to take a 45-44 lead, which they briefly surrendered. They then ran off 16 consecutive points, with Goodwin scoring seven of his 16 points and D.J. Foreman scoring six during the stretch.

"Coach told us to just play and I was like, all right," guard Jordan Goodwin said. "I can fly around and be aggressive. For sure, that was fun."

SLU had 12 steals with Goodwin accounting for six.

Thatch has battled foul trouble the last two games and was only able to play 16 minutes.

But he was on the court during the decisive stretch, and the Billikens outscored the Eagles by 20 points while he was on the floor.

"I've been struggling defensively the last couple of days," Thatch said. "I've been moving a little slow, and that's why I've been fouling a lot. Jordan just said 'Lock in. We're going to do this.' And sure enough, the game turned around. We play defense, for sure."

The contest was sandwiched between games against No. 24 Houston and No. 11 Florida State, which SLU will face Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. Ford didn't view it as a "trap" game but said it would have been better to play at a different time. …

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