ST. LOUIS (AP) – Saint Louis’ first game since cracking the Top 25 this season wasn’t pretty.
Dwayne Evans scored 18 points, Rob Loe had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots and the 24th-ranked Billikens held off St. Bonaventure 66-60 on Wednesday night.
“It’s not easy to score against them, it’s not easy to defend them,” coach Jim Crews said. “I’m not right very often but I was kind of right going into this game, I knew it’d be just a knockdown, drag-out possession game.”
Jordair Jett scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half for Saint Louis (16-2, 3-0 Atlantic 10), which has won 10 in a row. The start is the school’s best since the 1993-94 team was 19-1.
Saint Louis had a 45-32 rebounding cushion. The Billikens made the finish tighter than it could have been, going 1 for 7 at the free throw line the final minute with Jett and Mike McCall Jr. both missing a pair.
“I’m not going to say we were lucky to get this win,” Evans said. “But we’ve got to be better.”
Matthew Wright had 17 points for St. Bonaventure (11-6, 1-2), which was in foul trouble early and ended with four players drawing four fouls apiece. Dion Wright added 16 points off the bench.
“We were always catching up,” coach Mark Schmidt said. “At times, you get worn out a little bit.”
The Billikens are 3-0 in conference play for the first time since winning the first three in the Mid-Continent Conference in 1989-90.
St. Bonaventure had a 13-point second-half lead before fading its last time out at No. 19 Massachusetts and kept it close throughout.
Jordan Gathers’ 3-pointer capped an 8-0 run that put the visitors up 47-45 lead near the midpoint of the second half. The Billikens outscored St. Bonaventure 12-1 the next three minutes including two 3-pointers by Mike Crawford for a nine-point cushion and the lead was at least five the rest of the way.
Crawford entered with six 3-pointers for the season, including a 3-for-3 showing against Southeast Missouri State in the opener. He’d been 1 for 15 the previous nine games and was scoreless the last two games in 19 total minutes.
“That’s what’s fun about coaching, seeing when kids put in the effort and don’t get all bent out of shape if things don’t go your way,” Crews said. “Really, all of our freshmen have been outstanding with that.”
The Bonnies’ thin bench was tested before the break with Marquise Simmons and sub Dion Wright each saddled with three fouls and two others with two each. Youssou Ndoye drew his third foul in the opening minute of the second half.
“We like to pound it inside against most people,” Crews said. “It was a very physical game and a lot of fouls were called.”
Jett, the A-10 player of the week, made just one of his first seven shots and was held to five points in the first half. Saint Louis missed all seven 3-point attempts plus a handful of blown layups.
Jett finished 5-for-12 shooting but was just 5-for-11 at the line. The previous three games he’d averaged nearly 20 points.
Saint Louis leads the series 11-4 and has won four of the last five.
St. Bonaventure faced consecutive ranked opponents for the first time since Jan. 22-27, 1996, losses to Virginia Tech and top-ranked Massachusetts. The Bonnies have lost 24 in a row to Top 25 teams since beating No. 20 Temple in 2000 and are 2-5 on the road.