One year ago to the day, the Myles Powell scoring machine was held in check on his home floor by St. Louis University.
The Billikens went into the Prudential Center and beat Seton Hall, in large part by holding the guard, who is now being touted as the best player in the nation, to a poor shooting performance.
Powell and the Pirates get another shot at SLU on Sunday, one week after it appeared that Powell would not be able to play in the 3 p.m. game at Chaifetz Arena.
The preseason Big East player of the year was expected to have a prolonged absence because of an ankle injury. Instead, he scored 37 points in No. 12 Seton Hall’s 76-73 home loss to No. 3 Michigan State on Thursday.
“You always want the best for every athlete, so I’m glad to see him come back from something that initially sounded like it could be pretty serious,” SLU coach Travis Ford said. “Obviously he’s OK and one of the best, if not the best, player in the country. He was great last year. I guess experience always gets you a little better.”
Powell scored 16 points — only three in the first half — against the Billikens last season, making four of 13 shots. SLU won that game 66-64. In the rematch, Seton Hall will try to get back on track and SLU will discover how good its revamped lineup really is after three season-opening wins.
And the Pirates are dealing with some adversity. On Friday, the NCAA placed them on probation for three years, taking away a scholarship for the 2020-21 academic year and limiting recruiting in each of the next two seasons as part of a negotiated resolution of a transfer tampering case started in 2016. The Pirates will remain eligible for this season’s NCAA Tournament.
Powell, who averaged 23 points as a junior, is one of four returning starters for the Pirates, and one of the many returning players who accounted for all but two points in last year’s loss to the Bills. The Billikens have three players from that game and they scored a combined seven points.
Junior guard Jordan Goodwin, who is one of the three, does not look at the game as a measuring stick for the Billikens.
“In our group chat, everyone felt confident,” he said. “We’re not worried about Seton Hall. We just have to go out and control what we can do. For us to go in and win would not be a surprise to us. We feel we can play with anyone in the country.”
Ford has remade the Billikens, who are scoring more than they have in years. Seton Hall will be the first of several nonconference tests for a team that is playing three freshmen.
Jimmy Bell Jr. has been starting at center and guards Yuri Collins and Gibson Jimerson have played major roles off the bench. This will be their first game against a ranked opponent, in front of a potential sellout crowd and also those watching on ESPNU.
“I told some of the guys this is my first time in an arena in front of a large crowd, so it took me a couple of games to get used to it,” Jimerson said. “I think it will be a full house and you have to control the emotions, but I’m real excited.”
Last season’s win at Seton Hall was the best of the nonconference season for SLU. The Pirates finished 20-14 and played in the NCAA Tournament.
The Billikens won despite committing 24 turnovers while Seton Hall had eight. They made up by shooting 47.6 percent and holding the Pirates to 33 percent.
Ford said to win Sunday, the Billikens will need a performance far superior to anything they have displayed thus far.
“It’s a test for everybody, I promise you that,” he said. “Seton Hall is a Final Four type of team with the pieces and depth they have. They have all the pieces you need for a special year.”
The game will test everything SLU has done well to this point.
The Pirates have been fairly secure with the ball, averaging 12.0 turnovers. They have held teams to 39.5 percent shooting. And they rack up points with four players averaging nine points or more.
The Billikens will find out if their defense, the cornerstone of Ford’s program, is good enough against a top-level opponent.
Said Goodwin: “We’re going to find out Sunday.”