‘We’re not happy with ourselves’ – SLU Billikens sit dead last in A-10, searching for answers

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ST. LOUIS – Winless in six of seven games to start the new calendar year, the Saint Louis University Billikens now sit dead last in the Atlantic 10.

It’s a spot where they have only finished a season once since joining the conference and relatively unfamiliar territory under head coach Travis Ford. This season’s squad is 8-12 with a underwhelming 1-6 conference record.

“We’re not happy with ourselves. We shouldn’t be,” said Ford after SLU’s loss last Wednesday to Davidson.

During that game, the Billikens carried a lead into the second half, only to see it slip away behind 56 second-half points allowed.

“It’s about discipline,” Ford told FOX 2 and others. “Finding what we can do to change it.”

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The Billikens program, at least under Ford, has thrived behind stout defense in recent years.

The 2018-19 team that won the A-10 Tournament and qualified for March Madness only allowed 64 points per game, 22nd among 353 NCAA teams. This season’s team has allowed around 77 points per game, an alarming drop to 316th among 362 NCAA teams.

“I don’t believe that we just can’t defend,” said Ford. “We do it for 20 minutes. We got to figure out how to sustain it. We got to figure out how to stick with what we practice, stick with it for 40 minutes, and have the mentality of a winner. The mentality of ‘We’re not going to let anything get in the way of us,’ executing or playing hard, no matter what happens.”

Frustration mounted during Wednesday’s loss to Davidson with the Billikens players getting vocal during a closed-door team meeting.

“I feel like when we did get in the locker room, we said what we had to say,” said Billikens foward Bradley Ezewiro. “We got things out that were unspoken. I feel like everybody’s going to have a new attitude. Things were said in the locker room. Everybody got what they need to say out. Now we can move forward.”

The Billikens lost their next game last Saturday, 84-73 to UMass. Turnovers and defensive lapses also factored into that loss.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Billikens beat writer Stu Durando recently asked Ford about how he looks to improve the defense amid prolonged struggles. Ford said every gameplan is a little different and there seem to be some concerns with zoning or pressing.

“It’s hard,” Ford told Durando. “You may not understand what we’re doing out there. We change every game what we’re trying to do. We don’t leave and go home. We’ll be here until 2 [a.m.] in the morning trying to figure it out.”

Third in coaching wins in SLU basketball history, Ford is also one of the program’s longest-tenured coaches ever amid his eighth season. The pressure seems to be growing for him and the Billikens to perform, arguably more than ever., a college basketball-centric website, lists Ford among 13 coaches as to where the hot seat “is rather warm,” stating that “these coaches need to start winning now, but that may not even be enough.”

Ford is currently the highest-paid coach in the A-10 and has never finished better than fourth place in the conference’s regular-season standings. He’s undoubtedly well respected within the SLU community, but how much he can salvage out of what’s so far led to a hold of last place could determine his fate in leading the program beyond this year.

The Billikens have 11 games left on schedule and will need to win at least seven to finish the regular season at .500. Up next is a road match Tuesday against Loyola Chicago.

The regular season runs through March 9 and will be followed by the A-10 Conference Tournament the following weekend.


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