SIUE Poses Tough Matchup for SLU

By Durando, Stu | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

SIUE Poses Tough Matchup for SLU


Durando, Stu, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Two years ago, St. Louis University was embarking on a season that would take the Billikens to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville was still trying to get its Division I legs.

Their regular-season meeting was a predictably lopsided affair in which SLU led by 25 points at halftime.

A year later, the gap had been reduced more than anyone could have imagined.

The Billikens beat the Cougars by six in a game they led by one point with two minutes remaining. SIUE had come that close to its biggest win since making the D-I transition.

The Cougars will take another shot at SLU on Wednesday night when the Billkens travel to the Vadalabene Center, and coach Jim Crews knows how significant an SIUE win over his program would be.

"They had T-shirts in the book store 'Beat the Billikens' before the first game," he said. "And we weren't the first game. So it's a big deal, oh yeah. It should be fun. They'll have a sellout and will be amped up."

Crews was right. The SIUE bookstore has been selling shirts for $8 to build the hype.

The Billikens are 9-1 all-time against the Cougars with SIUE's only win in the series coming in 1982. But they are now competing Division I programs in the same market, making the stakes a bit higher. And there is early excitement around SIUE in coach Jon Harris' first season.

The game is a challenge for SLU in many regards.

The Billikens lost their final 10 road games last season, after posting their only true road win at Indiana State. And SIUE will present some issues that SLU didn't see in its season-opening win over Hartford.

The Cougars have significant size in the middle, something SLU did not see in its opener. The Billikens' big men could have their hands full with 6-foot-10, 260-pound Yemi Makanjuola and Grant Fiorentinos (6-10, 225).

There also is an overall difference in style between SIUE and Hartford, and the Billikens will have to adjust. SLU had trouble last year with the Cougars when they were coached by Lennox Forrester.

"Coach Forrester did a great job of putting a solid program together," Crews said. "The kids had good habits, and Jon has taken what Lennox did and complemented it. ... They're right in your face defensively and offensively. They want to push it right in your face. …

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