Billikens Turn Away UMass, 59-50
ST. LOUIS - Lorreal Jones registered her fourth double-double of the season, and Saint Louis overcame a sluggish start to defeat Massachusetts 59-50 Thursday night in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at Chaifetz Arena.
The Billikens improved to 10-12 overall and 4-3 in the A-10 with their second consecutive victory. It's the first time since the 2008-09 season that Saint Louis has been above .500 at the halfway point of the conference schedule. UMass fell to 3-20, 1-7 with its seventh straight loss.
Jones scored a team-high 13 points and tied for game-high honors with 11 rebounds, including a game-high and team-season-high seven offensive boards. She has posted a double-digit rebound total in four consecutive games.
Jacy Bradley tallied 12 points, seven rebounds and game highs of six assists and three steals. Mallory Eggert scored nine points, and Halee Castleman grabbed 10 rebounds, her second double-figure total of the season.
Jasmine Watson led UMass with 20 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
The Billikens' 45-36 rebounding advantage included 17 offensive boards, tying the team's season high. SLU suffered just 12 turnovers and was 14-of-17 (.824) from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, UMass struggled mightily from beyond the arc, connecting on just 3-of-22 attempts from deep. The Minutewomen shot 50 percent (17-of-34) in 2-point tries, with Watson (9-of-11) leading the way.
"I'm really proud of our team's resilience, and their ability to play to win and refuse to lose," head coach Lisa Stone said. "I told our team after the game that sometimes when you win ugly, it's more satisfying because you have to grind it out.
"A sign of growth is that you can win a game ugly. The first half was ugly, the second half was better. When you put them together, it's a W at the end, and we're really happy about that."
The Bills fell behind 10-1 and didn't score their first field goal until Denisha Womack connected at the 11:45 mark of the first half. That triggered an 8-0 run that narrowed the UMass lead to 10-9.
The Minutewomen got six points from Watson and four from Rashida Timbilla in a 10-0 spurt that gave the visitors a 20-9 cushion with 4:29 left. However, the Billikens closed the half with an 11-4 run in which four different players scored, and it was 24-20 UMass at intermission.
"We weren't ourselves in the first half," Stone said. "I thought we were tight, for whatever reason. But we defended and held UMass to 24 points."
After UMass scored the first basket of the second half, Saint Louis got four Castleman free throws, a Bradley trey and an Eggert jumper to go on top 29-26. UMass answered with the next six points to grab a 32-29 lead.
Bradley hit a short jumper, and Jones gave the Bills the lead for good, 33-32, with a pair from the line. A Desirae Ball jumper made it 35-32 at the 11:35 mark, and the lead alternated between one and three points for the next three minutes until SLU began to gradually pull away.
Eggert and Womack tallied traditional three-point plays and Courtney Webb buried a 3-pointer in a 13-5 run that put Saint Louis in front 52-41 with 3:22 remaining. UMass rattled off eight straight points over the next 1:22 to narrow the gap to 52-49. But Jones restored order with a bucket and two free throws, and the Bills held on to equal their A-10 win total of last season.
"I give UMass a lot of credit," Stone said. "Watson is a handful inside, but I thought Mallory played very good defense on her in the second half. We came alive offensively and scored 39 points in the second half. We settled down and became ourselves."The Billikens are in Philadelphia Sunday, Feb. 10, to face Temple. Tip time is 1 p.m. (CT).