Billikens Top Dayton in Defensive Battle, 58-50
ST. LOUIS - Brian Conklin scored a game-high-tying 16 points, and Saint Louis held off Dayton's second-half rally to defeat the Flyers 58-50 Saturday in front of 10,414 fans at Chaifetz Arena, the largest home crowd of the season for the Billikens and second-largest attendance in the Arena's four-year history.
With the victory, the Billikens (18-5, 6-3 Atlantic 10) remained one-half game behind conference leader Temple (6-2). Dayton fell to 14-9 overall and 4-5 in the league.
Conklin, who played a career- and game-high 37 minutes, also pulled down eight rebounds. Kwamain Mitchell tallied 12 points and a game-high four assists, Cody Ellis scored 10 points, and Dwayne Evans narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Chris Johnson tossed in 16 points and collected seven rebounds, including a game-high five offensive boards, for Dayton. Kevin Dillard netted 11 points, and Luke Fabrizius grabbed nine rebounds.
Each team registered a season scoring low. Saint Louis shot 40 percent (18-of-45) overall and 23.5 percent (4-of-17) from 3-point range, but Dayton was worse. The Flyers connected on just 24.6 percent (14-of-57) overall and 16.7 percent (4-of-24) from beyond the arc.
SLU led 31-25 at halftime, and Conklin quickly made it 35-25 with a tip-in and a layup on the Billikens' first two second-half possessions.
Trailing 36-26, Dayton used an 8-0 run to narrow the Saint Louis advantage to 36-34. The Flyers had a chance to tie or take the lead on their next possession, but Fabrizius - whose 3-pointer had made it a two-point game - misfired on another trey attempt.
Rob Loe hit a 3-pointer and Conklin made a layup to give the Bills some breathing room at 41-34. The lead remained between four and seven points until two Dillard free throws narrowed the gap to three, 44-41, with 8:47 left.
Mitchell knocked down a 3-pointer at the 8:32 mark to double the Billiken margin, but that was the last field goal SLU would score in the next five minutes. Dayton sank just one of its next five shots, but Dillard's layup with 3:54 remaining made it a one-possession game, 48-45.
A steal and layup by Mike McCall Jr. 30 seconds later put SLU on top 51-45, and two free throws by Evans put the Bills in front 53-46 with 2:35 left. Dayton, however, converted four free throws in the next two minutes to shave the Saint Louis lead to 53-50 with 34 seconds to go.
That concluded the Flyers' scoring for the day, however, and the Billikens made enough free throws in the waning seconds to maintain command.
Saint Louis trailed 10-8 at the 14:30 mark of the first half before a 10-0 spurt put the Billikens on top 18-10 with 9:24 left. SLU earned its first double-digit lead, 23-13, on an Ellis 3-pointer and later led 31-20 before UD tallied the final five points of the half.
The Billikens are back in action Wednesday, Feb. 8, against Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia. Tip time is 7:30 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on KPLR Channel 11.