St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak in more than three years, the 17th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens play the penultimate game of the 2013-14 regular season when they host the Dayton Flyers in Atlantic 10 Conference action on Wednesday night.
Dayton appeared to be dead in the water at the end of January, at least with respect to competing for the Atlantic 10 title, but the Flyers went on a run that would see them win six straight and seven of their last eight games to pull to 20-9 overall and 8-6 in conference. They can't win the league championship, but can improve their postseason prospects both in the A-10 Tournament and beyond should they be able to win tonight, and in this Saturday's finale at home against Richmond.
Saint Louis had been cruising along, logging an impressive 25-2 record, which included a 12-0 showing in conference play, but back-to-back losses to Duquesne (71-64) and VCU (67-56) have brought the team back to Earth a bit. Still, the Billikens are a win away from earning at least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular-season title, and two wins shy of winning the crown outright. SLU, which is 14-2 at home this season, has only this game and Sunday's road clash with UMass left on the docket.
The all-time series between these two programs in knotted at 25-25, and Saint Louis won in Dayton earlier this season in a 67-59 final. The Billikens have won three straight, and four of the last five meetings overall.
Dayton ranks in the top half of the A-10 register in both scoring offense (73.7 ppg, fifth) and scoring defense (68.0 ppg, sixth), and the team is one of the top rebounding units in the league (+4.2). The Flyers boast three double-digit scorers in Jordan Sibert (12.6 ppg), Devin Oliver (12.0 ppg) and Dyshawn Pierre (11.4 ppg), with Oliver also serving as the unit's top rebounder (7.2 rpg) and playmaker (2.4 apg). The team as a whole is shooting 46.3 percent from the field, which includes a 37.3 percent effort from 3-point range. Foes are trailing behind in both categories (.444, .345).
Dayton topped visiting UMass last Saturday, 86-79, as five Flyers reached double figures, led by Sibert with 23 points. Pierre added 16, Vee Sanford came off the bench to tally 15, and Oliver and Khari Price chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Oliver also grabbed nine boards and combined with Price to hand out nine of the team's 14 assists. UD shot an even 50 percent from the field, knocking down 9-of-20 3-point tries along the way, while allowing the Minutemen to convert 47.3 percent of their total shots, despite a 4-of-11 showing from beyond the arc.
Even though they've had a couple of hiccups recently, Saint Louis has maintained its spot atop the A-10 standings, as well its position in several of the league's statistical categories. The Billikens continue to pace the conference in scoring defense (60.5 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.392) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.273). They also force more than 14 turnovers per outing, while winning the battle on the boards by 2.0 rpg. There are three double-digit scorers on the roster, as Jordair Jett (13.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.8 apg), Dwayne Evans (13.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Rob Loe (10.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) spearhead the club's offensive attack, which accounts for 70.4 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .443 overall, .324 from long range, and .712 from the free-throw line.
Jett hit for 18 points and Austin McBroom came off the bench to add 11 more, but those efforts weren't enough to keep the Billikens from suffering their second straight loss, this time at VCU over the weekend. Saint Louis, which trailed by 10 at halftime (38-28), shot just 42.9 percent from the floor, missing the mark on nine of its 13 3-point attempts, while holding the Rams to 38.7 percent overall, which encompassed a 3-of-16 showing from distance. Unfortunately, the Billikens were guilty of 17 turnovers, off which VCU scored 23 points. The home team also logged positive margins in points in the paint (38-26), on second chances (18-9), and out on the break (8-4).