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SLU v Oregon State

SLU guard Javon Bess is fouled by Oregon State guard Stephen Thompson Jr. in the second half during a game between St. Louis and Oregon State on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Mo. Photo by Chris Lee

Javon Bess was an uncertain participant for St. Louis University’s game at Southern Illinois-Carbondale last week after missing two days of practice, yet the senior managed to play 37 minutes on a bum ankle.

He grabbed 15 rebounds in that game but his shot was rusty after missing practice for two days. Given more time to recover and tend to his daily workout routine, Bess was back to normal against Oregon State on Sunday.

And normal is something coach Travis Ford thinks everyone should start noticing.

“I don’t know if enough can be said about what he’s doing,” Ford said. “He needs to start getting national attention that he deserves on both sides.”

Bess scored a career-high 24 points against the Beavers. He also held their leading scorer, Tres Tinkle, to seven points in the first 35 minutes before he tacked on eight in the closing desperation minutes and not all of them with Bess defending.

Bess had his third consecutive game without a turnover, made five steals and hit nine of 16 shots.

The 6-foot-6 transfer from Michigan State leads SLU in scoring with a 14.4 average, rebounding (7.7 per game), 3-pointers (17), 3-pointer percentage (.370), free-throw percentage (80.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3-to-1).

“Javon Bess continues to amaze me with what he’s doing,” Ford said. “He’s totally selfless. Totally changes the game. I hope, and do believe, that it becomes a little contagious to some guys.”

Bess is assigned to defend the top perimeter scorer on the opposing team in each game. With a hand from Fred Thatch, he held Seton Hall’s Myles Powell to 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting in a SLU win. He held Butler’s Kamar Baldwin to six points on 3-of-17 shooting in a SLU win. And he held Tinkle to 15 on 5-of-11 shooting. Those three scored a combined 31 points below their averages at the time the games were played.

Something that has gone overlooked is how Bess has minimized his turnovers while leading the Billikens in playing time. He has seven in 315 minutes, which works out to fewer than one turnover per 40 minutes.

Ball security and free-throw accuracy – and the absence of injured guard Tramaine Isabell – were the reasons Ford wanted the ball in Bess’ hands in the closing minutes as SLU was protecting its lead Sunday.

“We started running things late in the game to keep the ball in his hands so we could isolate him to score or get to the free-throw line,” Ford said. “Everybody was doing what they could to put him in that spot.”