Southeast rips Bills to shreds

Thursday, December 30, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Given St. Louis University's offensive struggles so far this season, it wasn't overly surprising Southeast Missouri State University beat the Billikens on Wednesday night.

But winning by 16 points in a game that wasn't really that close?

"No, never did I expect to come in here and win going away like that," Southeast coach Gary Garner said.

But win going away Southeast did, romping 65-49 in front of 9,282 mostly stunned fans at Savvis Center. Southeast, which never trailed, led by 16 points at halftime and by 26 points in the second half.

"They're a good team, actually," Southeast senior forward Reggie Golson said. "We did some soul searching over the break and came out strong."

Southeast, which was paid about $45,000 for the last of its three "guarantee" games, improved to 4-6 with its first road victory of the season.

"This is a really good win for us, to beat a Conference USA team on the road," said Garner, whose squad has suffered five of its six losses by a total of 22 points. "We have not gone into a game where we didn't think we could win, but I thought it would be another down-to-the-wire game."

SLU fell to 2-9 with its fifth home loss in six tries. It was the Billikens' third-most lopsided defeat of the season, behind only setbacks to SIU and nationally ranked Gonzaga.

The Billikens, who have suffered a host of narrow losses this season, returned many of their key players from last year's squad that went 19-13 and won a first-round NIT game.

"I'm struggling for an answer," SLU coach Brad Soderberg said.

The Billikens entered the contest shooting 37.6 percent from the field while averaging 52.8 points per game. Both figures ranked last in Conference USA and near the bottom nationally.

SLU did not even reach its paltry scoring average Wednesday night, although it barely surpassed its shooting norm at 38.9 percent. The Billikens misfired on all eight of their 3-point attempts and also were a miserable seven for 18 on free throws.

It didn't help the Billikens that leading scorer Reggie Bryant (14.2 points per game) was out with an eye infection.

"I'm sure not having Bryant hurt them," Garner said. "And I know they've struggled shooting, but I thought our defensive intensity for 40 minutes was really good.

"The thing I'm most proud of is they never made a run at us in the second half, and most of it was because we kept our defensive intensity."

While the Billikens have floundered offensively, they entered the game among Conference USA's top defensive teams, allowing just 40 percent shooting -- but Southeast was able to hit a sizzling 52.2 percent, including eight for 14 on 3-pointers.

"I was really pleased with the way we shot the ball, because they are a very good defensive team," Garner said. "Our execution was the best it's been."

Golson had a big night, leading all scorers with 19 points while hitting eight of 13 shots, as he repeatedly used his quickness to blow past SLU's bigger, slower inside defenders. Golson also had nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

"On offense, I felt like I had an advantage," Golson said. "I was just going to play hard."

Senior forward Dainmon Gonner added 17 points along with three assists, two steals and two blocks.

"This was a nice win, to come here and beat them," Gonner said.

Senior guard Derek Winans matched Golson's 11 first-half points and finished with 13 in his best performance since returning from a stress fracture in his left leg. Winans, who hit all three of his 3-point attempts and was four of five from the floor overall, also had four steals.

"My legs are coming back," Winans said. "I'm starting to feel a lot more comfortable."

Sophomore guard Terrick Willoughby hit three of five shots and added eight points. Freshman point guard Paul Paradoski, a St. Louis native, had a strong floor game with four assists, two steals and just two turnovers. Southeast had only 11 turnovers.

Southeast scored the game's first basket. SLU tied it at 2-2, but a free throw by Willoughby put Southeast ahead 3-2 -- and, stunningly, the rout was on.

Southeast bolted to a 16-8 lead, saw SLU pull within 16-12, then scored 10 straight points to go ahead 26-12. The Billikens never got closer than 12 points the rest of the night.

Ahead 34-18 at halftime, Southeast built a pair of 26-point leads at 52-26 and 54-28. The closest SLU could get was 14 points in the final minute.

"You always expect a team at home to make a run, but they never did," Garner said. "It was nice not to have to sweat one out."

Southeast has its final nonconference game Saturday night, hosting Division II Lincoln.

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