The Billikens led 50-25 at halftime, and they were up by as many as 29 points in the second half before the Huskies rallied to make the score a little more respectable.
ST. LOUIS — You’ve learned not to expect the best from Lorenzo Romar’s Washington teams in their first road game of a new season. At this time of year, the Huskies travel about as well as claustrophobic septuplets crammed into a Mini Cooper.
But even though their November road standard is low, what happened Sunday morning at Chaifetz Arena represented an alarming breakdown. The Huskies offered little resistance as Saint Louis hammered them 77-64 before an announced crowd of 6,761.
It was a most lopsided and deceiving 13-point loss. The Billikens led 50-25 at halftime, and they were up by as many as 29 points in the second half before the Huskies rallied to make the score a little more respectable.
Romar, who coached Saint Louis from 1999 to 2002, received a nice applause before the game, but the rest was a rude welcome back. Washington (3-1) was never really in the game. It only took Saint Louis (3-0) 7 ½ minutes to build a double-digit lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.
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The game was humbling for the Huskies. And it was humiliating.
The Huskies are now 0-9 under Romar when playing their first nonconference road game on an opponent’s home court. It’s an odd stat, and in most seasons, it hasn’t stopped the Huskies from having a successful year. In fact, the wake-up calls have been good for Romar’s teams. But this game provided the harshest reality check of all.
“This is just something we definitely have to learn from,” said Huskies guard Terrence Ross, who led the team with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. “I don’t want to be in this position again. It hurts.”
Burdened by the early foul trouble of big men Darnell Gant and Aziz N’Diaye, the Huskies were rattled and out of sync on both ends of the floor. On offense, they took too many quick, contested shots and committed several turnovers because they were impatient against the Billikens’ disciplined defense.
On the other end of the court, they couldn’t guard Saint Louis forward Brian Conklin, who finished with 25 points, and they allowed too many open three-pointers. The Billikens made 9 of 21 three-pointers, including four from guard Kwamain Mitchell, who scored 18 points.
The Huskies also communicated poorly on defense, which was most evident when teammates forgot to warn C.J. Wilcox of a screen in the second half. Wilcox was leveled and rose slowly, but after the game, Romar was optimistic Wilcox would be OK to play by Friday, when the Huskies host Houston Baptist.
Even worse, Saint Louis played more aggressively and outhustled the Huskies.
“This was about a great effort for us,” Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus said. “They’re a terrific team. You saw the athletes that they had inside, and I thought we did a good job of neutralizing their size and blocking out.”
The Huskies were grounded, for sure. And Romar blamed the team’s inability to execute offensively for that.
Normally, after a game in which the Huskies allowed an opponent to shoot 52.8 percent (60 percent in the first half), he would cite defensive woes. Not this time. Romar thought the Huskies were so bad on offense that it helped spur the Billikens, who turned many of the Huskies’ misses into easy offensive looks while Washington was scrambling to get back on defense.
The Huskies shot only 32.1 percent in the first half and 42.4 percent for the game. Starting guards Abdul Gaddy and Wilcox were a combined 3 of 15 from the field.
“I was totally disappointed with us in the whole first half,” Romar said. “If we did a better job offensively, I guarantee you our defense would’ve gotten better. Saint Louis is a very good basketball team. We played right into their hands. Sometimes, your bad offense can lead to the other team’s good offense.”
Percentages: FG .424, FT .625. Three-point goals: 4-12, .333 (Wroten 2-3, Simmons 1-1, Gant 1-2, Wilcox 0-2, Ross 0-4). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 1 (N’Diaye). Turnovers: 16 (Wroten 5, Breunig 2, Gant 2, Kemp Jr. 2, Ross 2, Simmons, Wilcox, N’Diaye). Steals: 5 (Gaddy 3, Wroten, Wilcox). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .528, FT .750. Three-point goals: 9-21, .429 (Mitchell 4-9, Cassity 2-3, Loe 2-3, McCall 1-2, Evans 0-1, Ellis 0-3). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 1 (Loe). Turnovers: 8 (Loe 2, Evans 2, Jett, Ellis, Conklin, Remekun). Steals: 6 (Mitchell 4, Loe, Conklin). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 6,761. Officials: Michael Stephens, Lamar Simpson, Roger Ayers.