|Billikens set record for scoring futility in 49-20 loss to GW|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 11 January 2008 12:17|
The charismatic coach who guided teams to 11 NCAA tournaments in 20 seasons and led Utah to the 1998 Final Four has seen some painful things in his first year at Saint Louis University, a 41-point loss to Kent State among them.
But Thursday night was something else. The Billikens set a record for scoring futility in a 49-20 loss to George Washington in their Atlantic 10 opener.
The 20 points were the fewest in Division I since the shot clock was introduced in 1985-86. The previous record was 21 by Georgia Southern in a 40-point loss to Coastal Carolina in 1997 and matched by Princeton in a 41-21 loss to Monmouth in 2005.
The Billikens were 7-48 (14.6 percent) from the field, including 1-for-19 from beyond the 3-point line. Their top scorer, reserve Bryce Husak, had five points. Tommy Liddell was 1-for-12, Kevin Lisch 1-for-9, Paul Eckerle 1-for-8.
Saint Louis missed the first nine shots and didn't score until Husak made a free throw nearly six minutes into the game. The Billikens trailed 25-7 at the half.
At one point, Saint Louis missed 23 straight shots.
After the game, Majerus credited George Washington (5-6) with strong defense but admitted his undersized team had ``some issues.''
``Anyone can look at us and see we don't have height, we don't have depth,'' he said.
This was the latest of several poor scoring performances in Division I this season. In fact, three of the lowest team point totals for a half have occurred in the last month, NCAA spokesman Gary Johnson said.
On Monday, Savannah State set records for fewest points and worst field goal percentage in a half in the shot-clock era, shooting 4.3 percent (1-for-23) while being outscored 48-4 in the second half of an 85-25 loss at Kansas State.
In addition to the Billikens' seven-point half, North Carolina Central managed just eight first-half points in a 71-28 loss at Nebraska on Dec. 22.
But the scoring outages are not the rule, Johnson said - scoring is actually up slightly from last season. At the midway point of 2006-07, the average Division I team was scoring 69.93 points per game. This season, the average (through Sunday) was 70.12.
``Every now and then freaky things like this happen,'' Johnson said.
Majerus came out of retirement in April with a career record of 422-147. At 59, and with a history of health problems, he said he felt fit and ready for the challenge.
Boy, did he get one.
The Billikens haven't made it to the NCAA tournament since 2000, though they showed signs of improvement last year under Brad Soderberg, winning 20 games. Still, Soderberg was fired after five seasons.
At his introductory news conference, Majerus may have been prophetic.
``You don't want to panic in these situations,'' he said. ``It's not about this year. It's about laying the groundwork for the program.''
There's room for optimism. Majerus' first recruiting class will add some badly needed size and athleticism next season. The recruits include 6-foot-11 center Brett Thompson of Vienna, Ill., 6-9 forward Willie Reed of Shawnee Mission, Kan., and 6-8 forward Brian Conklin of North Eugene, Ore., along with two guards, 6-4 Femi John of St. Louis McCluer North and 6-foot point guard Kwamain Mitchell of Whitefish Bay, Wis.
Saint Louis also is building a new $80 million arena scheduled to open next season, a move that should help attract players. Currently, the Billikens play at Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues, and practice at the antiquated West Pine Gym on the campus of the Jesuit school in the city's midtown area.
For now, Majerus is making due with what he has. Saint Louis beat Southern Illinois last month, though the Salukis are down after reaching the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in 2006-07. The Billikens also beat IUPUI, which was 9-2 at the time.
And Thursday's game could have been worse. The Division I record for fewest points was set by Arkansas State in a 75-6 loss to Kentucky in 1945, and matched by Temple in an 11-6 loss to Tennessee in 1973.
Majerus said his players - all recruited by Soderberg - are putting out the effort, but likened the fit between coach and team to that of a stepparent and his stepchildren.
``I didn't pick them,'' he said. ``They didn't pick me.''