Billikens try to keep streak alive with win at Charlotte

Saturday, March 8, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis isn't getting overly carried away with its late-season success.

Heading into the regular-season finale today at East Carolina, the Billikens (14-12, 8-7 Conference USA) have a six-game winning streak. The run may put the team in line for some postseason action, but coach Brad Soderberg said the Billikens need to win the Conference USA tournament to make it to the NCAA tournament.

"I don't think there's another way we can get in," Soderberg said. "I think we dug too deep of a hole early in the year."

Soderberg's predecessor, Lorenzo Romar, won the conference tournament as a heavy underdog in 2000, his first season. But that'll mean four victories in four days.

"I know Lorenzo did it his first year, but come on, that's a lot to ask," Soderberg said. "It's possible, absolutely."

No matter what happens, St. Louis will end the year on a positive note. The mood couldn't have been lower after the Billikens lost to South Florida in mid-February to fall to 8-12.

The winning streak is the program's best since the 1997-98 team opened the season with eight victories, and it's the Billikens' first six-game winning streak ever in Conference USA.

Guard Marque Perry said the key to the rest of the season is playing as if there's no tomorrow.

"There's a great deal of confidence that whoever we play, we have a chance to beat them," Perry said. "At the same time we're thinking we're the underdogs and we still have to practice and work harder than we did before."

Moments after St. Louis beat Charlotte 50-39 on Wednesday, Perry was already thinking about the next step. East Carolina (12-14, 3-12) has lost 12 of 14.

"We've got to put this game behind us and pretend like we've got to go on a roll," Perry said.

Opponents have been impressed with Saint Louis' run, which features an upset of then No. 2 Louisville and a first-ever victory at Cincinnati.

"They just grind it out at both ends," Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. "They're playing as well as anybody in our league right now, finding ways to win."

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