KINGSTON, R.I. – Senior guard Jordair Jett scored a career-high 31 points, including the game-winning free throws with seven seconds left, to lift Saint Louis to a thrilling 59-58 victory at Rhode Island Tuesday night. It was the Atlantic 10 Conference opener for both teams.
The win improves the Billikens to 14-2 overall and 1-0 in the A-10. Saint Louis has won eight in a row. Rhode Island dips to 9-7 and 0-1 in the league.
Jett’s 31 points are the most by a Billiken since Kwamain Mitchell scored 33 points against UMKC on Dec. 22, 2009. Jett was 10-for-18 from the field, including 2-of-2 from 3-point range. He also hit 9-of-13 from the charity stripe.
“This was a typical conference game in that it was a knock-down, drag-out kind of game,” SLU head coach Jim Crews said. “It was a great win, we feel good about it.
“Jordair is a high IQ guy,” Crews said. “He really understands matchups and how things work. He’s unique – he’s compact, strong and quick. He certainly played extremely well for us tonight. He and (URI guard Xavier) Munford were going at it in a good way, because he is a heck of a player also.”
SLU led throughout until midway through the second half when URI went on a run. The game wasn’t decided until the final minute. The score was tied 57-57, and Rhode Island had the ball with the shot clock turned off.
Jett fouled URI’s Xavier Munford, who then made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Rams the one-point advantage.
On the ensuing possession, Jett was fouled and hit both free-throw attempts – the eventual game winners – to give the Billikens a 59-58 lead.
With 7.4 seconds remaining, Munford ran the length of the court with Jett guarding closely. Jett forced the turnover and was fouled. He missed both free throws on the other end, and SLU fought off a last-second desperation throw-in by URI to post the victory.
SLU jumped out to a lead early on before Rhode Island rallied to tie the score at 14-14. But Dwayne Evans had a pair of dunks (#JAMTIME) to spark an 8-0 run and give the Billikens a 22-16 lead with 2:26 left in the half. Later, Jett hit a trey to extend the Billikens’ lead to eight.
The Billikens converted a pretty play at the horn to take a 27-19 lead into halftime. With three seconds left, Mike Crawford lofted a baseball pass just past midcourt. With one touch, Rob Loe directed it to Jett near the top of the key. Jett drove to the basket and converted to send the Billikens into the locker room with momentum.
A Jett traditional 3-point play with 17:34 to go gave the Billikens their largest lead of the game – a 33-21 advantage. But URI would claw back, going on an 8-0 run. Jett would score the next five points for the Billikens, who lost the lead for the first time at the 10:20 mark.
Rhody would go up by five at the 8:48 mark, but a key trey by Austin McBroom sliced the URI lead back to two. McBroom and Jett hit consecutive 3-pointers around the 4-minute mark to keep the game manageable for SLU and set up the thrilling final minute of play that saw the Billikens emerge victorious.
It was SLU’s first win against Rhode Island in the last five games.
Saint Louis remains on the road to face Dayton Saturday, Jan. 11. Game time at UD Arena is scheduled for 10 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised on ESPN2 with John Saunders and Dan Dakich on the call.