Kwamain Mitchell reached a milestone, Rick Majerus moved to the brink of one, Dwayne Evans got the season's first double-double and the St. Louis University basketball team kept right on going.
The Billikens used strong runs at the start of each half to set the table for a 62-43 win over Vermont on Wednesday at Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens improved to 8-1, their best start since the 1994-95 team hit that mark.
Along the way, Mitchell became the 25th Billiken to reach the 1,000-point mark and Majerus got his 499th career win. Win No. 500, in all likelihood, will come on Saturday afternoon when SLU faces Illinois-Springfield at Chaifetz.
SLU had four players finish with 10 points: Mitchell, Evans, Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis. The only things the Billikens didn't do well was take care of the ball (17 turnovers) and shoot free throws (61.5 percent). Evans and Jordair Jett were a combined two for seven at the line. But breakdowns in the first half were dealt with effectively in the second half, when Vermont had just six points through 14 minutes.
"It was one of those 'Tale of Two Cities' type of games," Majerus said. "But it was good. Look, we're 8-1 and our fans are almost disappointed we don't blow them out in the first half."
Mitchell is the first SLU player to get to the 1,000-point mark since Tommie Liddell in 2008. Mitchell broke through the 1,000-point mark on a 3-point shot with 11:40 to go in the game.
"It feels great," Mitchell said. "There are a lot of milestones to accomplish. The one thing is for us to make the NCAA Tournament. That's what I want to happen this year."
Points haven't come that easily for Mitchell this season. He made four of 10 shots against Vermont after making just two of eight against Portland. He's shooting 38.1 percent from the field this season, well off his career average, and Majerus thinks he's pressing because it's taking him a while to get his shot back after sitting out last season.
"You can't go and sit in Milwaukee ... he gets a little frustrated," Majerus said. Mitchell thinks the shots will come.
"My goal is to be a point guard, to be more pass-first player," he said. "When my shots come, they'll come. ... My shot is not falling, but I'm not letting it affect my overall game. Every day I'm coming out working hard, getting the guys ready."
SLU missed just once in the first seven minutes of the game, making nine of its first 10 shots and opening a 20-7 lead. Just about everything SLU did worked, at least on offense. At the other end, Vermont didn't miss much either, making eight of its first nine shots, though over a much larger window. Because of turnovers and free throws, Vermont didn't take its ninth shot until about seven minutes remained in the half.
Up just seven at the half despite shooting 60.9 percent, SLU opened the second with a 9-2 run to take a 43-29 lead and pretty much end it. Vermont scored just four points in the first 10 minutes of the second half to set up SLU's eighth double-digit win of the season. In the second half, Vermont shot just 25 percent from the field.
"Coach emphasizes a lot that the score is 0-0 at halftime," Evans said. "You can't take any kind of score for granted if you're up 20 or down 20. I know last year we had those lapses where we didn't score and we let teams crawl back into games. This year, we've done a great job of capitalizing on different advantages we have in the game and not letting those lapses happen."