That's about as dominant a first half as you'll see from the Billikens all year long. In fact, it was probably the best half since Nov. 2011 when SLU throttled Washington at home.
A year ago, it was about the offense. This year, it was most certainly about the defense. New Mexico turned the ball over in every way imaginable. The Lobos tossed it all over the yard. Seven possessions in a row and 16 turnovers total in the first half. The Bills' defense can be described as no other word besides suffocating.
On offense, it was an unlikely source that sparked the Billikens. Cory Remekun had a career-high 15 points and was incredibly aggressive in the earlygoing as SLU gained a 12-3 advantage.
So, what did we learn from this? As Cody Ellis said, the Billikens now know they can play this kind of defense against quality opponents such as New Mexico. Whether that translates during A-10 play is to be determined, but tonight was a Majerus-esque performance.
While redshirt senior Kwamain Mitchell was just 0-for-6 in the first half, there are a lot of things he does that don't show up in the statsheet. He was an emotional leader and really rallied the troops defensively this evening. Not to mention, his ability to get into the lane and distribute to teammates on the perimeter was on display as well.
To rewind – this isn't necessarily where I thought SLU would be after 13 games. Record-wise, it's about right, but without Mitchell, they've really shown me a lot. I picked SLU second in the A-10 preseason, and am not backing out of that quite yet. VCU and Butler have looked awfully good early and still clearly have better resumes than SLU (so does Temple, for what it's worth), but the Bills have positioned themselves well for yet another NCAA Tournament berth.
At 10-3, SLU now sits at 51 in the RPI. With a guarantee game against Savannah State looming on Jan. 4, the Bills will be 11-3 heading into Atlantic 10 play.
Looking ahead:Using Jeff Sagarin's power rating predictions, SLU is favored in 11 of 16 A-10 matchups. The road trips at St. Bonaventure and Richmond are infinitesimally in favor of the home teams, so SLU could realistically, from a statistical standpoint go 13-3 in conference play.
At Temple, at home against VCU, and at Butler are the three games that SLU is least likely to win.
All in all, a very successful night. SLU last beat a ranked team in 2009 when it knocked off Dayton, so this is big for the team and the program. We'll see how it translates during conference play in just a matter of two weeks.
Happy New Year's, folks! Be safe.