Kevin Foster. Travis Releford. You can now add C.J. Wilcox's name to that list of superstar guards that have taken the St. Louis University Billikens defense to school.
The Billikens went to Seattle on Wednesday night, looking to give the Washington Huskies their third straight home loss. Instead, SLU ran into a buzzsaw at the hands of Wilcox.
Wilcox destroyed the Billikens defense, scoring a game-high 27 points to lead the Huskies in a 66-61 victory over SLU.
Wilcox was nearly perfect from the field, missing two shots all night. In shooting 11-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-5 from the three-point line, Wilcox was responsible for almost half of the Huskies field goals (24) and nearly all of their three-pointers (6).
The Billikens had one man to beat. They failed.
West Coast Recap
It wasn't just the C.J. Wilcox show at Alaska Airlines Arena on Wednesday night. The other two players we previewed before the game, Abdul Gaddy and Aziz N'Diaye, also had huge contributions for the Huskies.
Gaddy and N'Diaye each scored in double figures (16 and 14, respectively) with N'Diaye adding eight rebounds and Gaddy dishing four assists.
The Huskies were horrid from the free-throw line, making only 12 of 22 attempts (54.5 percent). But because the Billikens only shot three free throws the entire night, the free-throw line was arguably the difference in the game for the Huskies.
For the record, Rob Loe was responsible for all of SLU's FT attempts, with two coming on Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar's technical foul.
The Billikens were terribly inefficient with the ball on offense, shooting 43.9 percent from the field overall. Cody Ellis' performance was a microcosm of the team's game.
Ellis led the Billikens with 14 points, fueled mostly by his four three-pointers. However, Ellis took 12 three-point shots altogether and was a combined 5-of-14 from the field.
Jordair Jett, still recovering from a groin injury, came off the bench to score 11 points. Jett looked much healthier on the court, adding six assists and four rebounds to his stat line. However, he was unable to stop Wilcox from scoring at will.
Cory Remekun looked good for the Billikens on the defensive end, blocking three shots within the first 10 minutes of the game. However, foul trouble limited Remekun to only 12 minutes of playing time, silencing his impact in the second half.
The Billikens (3-3) now return home to Chaifetz Arena for nine consecutive home games stretching into the second week of January. It will be crucial for the Billikens to win nearly all of these games if they want to continue building an NCAA tournament resume come March.
First up for the Billikens are the Valparaiso Crusaders (5-1) on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (CT).
The Billikens' nine-game home stand is highlighted by visits from North Texas (Dec. 5), Loyola Marymount (Dec. 22), SIU-Edwardsville (Dec. 28) and nationally-ranked New Mexico (Dec. 31).
Breaking Down Valparaiso
The defending champions of the Horizon League last year, the Crusaders (22-12, 14-4 in conference) expect nothing less than a repeat performance this season.
With Butler leaving the Horizon League to join the Atlantic-10 this season, that task is now much easier for head coach Bryce Drew's squad. Horizon League writers agree, picking Valparaiso to repeat as conference champions.
So far, the team has delivered. Valparaiso has rattled off five wins in the team's first six games, including an 88-83 overtime victory at Kent State in mid-November.
The Crusaders offer an interesting dichotomy for opponents; they are extremely deep in the backcourt, yet their two best players are power forwards.
Valparaiso offers opponents an unending wave of ballhandlers. Five of Valparaiso's six guards see more than 22 minutes of playing time per game. It will be imperative for the Billikens to have more than two or three guards available on Sunday.
That means freshman Keith Carter's return is a must. Carter dressed for the Washington game but did not play. His presence is necessary to help shoulder the load Mike McCall and Jett have been carrying in Carter's absence.
Valparaiso most often employs the use of a three-guard lineup, but opponents cannot sleep on the team's big men.
The Crusaders are led by a combo of senior forwards: Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk. The Horizon League All-Conference first teamers have combined for 33.0 points and 12.7 rebounds per game so far this season.
While not impressive physical specimens for the low block, Broekhoff (6'7", 215 lbs) leads the team in scoring and rebounding. He is a near perfect free-throw shooter (96.7 percent) and can shoot from anywhere on the court (40.6 percent from three-point range).
Van Wijk (6'8", 240 lbs) is a little bigger than Broekhoff, but his scoring touch is just as solid.
Expect to see Remekun match up down low on Van Wijk while Loe runs baseline to baseline with Broekhoff.
SLU must also have a game plan for junior forward Bobby Capobianco. The Indiana transfer has seen only limited action on the floor this season (14.0 minutes per game).
However, in that time Capobianco (6'10", 245 lbs) has strong numbers (7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game) that rank among the team's leaders.
The ballhandlers to watch on Valparaiso are senior guards Erik Buggs (5'11", 160 lbs) and Matt Kenney (6'4", 205 lbs).
Together Buggs and Kenney combine for over eight assists per game. And while the two do not score as much as other guards the Billikens have faced this year, they are both very good shooters (50 and 48 percent from the field, respectively).
Expect to also see heavy minutes from senior guards Wil Bogan and Ben Boggs, as well as junior Jordan Coleman. All can score and rebound very effectively.
The Crusaders offer the Billikens their most balanced, and by far their most experienced, opponent to date.
The seesaw of wins and losses this year says the Billikens are due for a victory. A little defense and some improved shooting would also help the cause.
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