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St. Louis University Battles Duquesne University on Senior Night

St. Louis University guard Tramaine Isabell Jr. (2) shoots for three over Duquesne University forward Marcus Weathers (5) during the first half of a game on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. The Billikens won their last regular season home game 85- 75 over the Dukes. Photo by Colter Peterson,

NEW YORK • There have been pockets of the season or specific games in which St. Louis University’s seven core players have excelled individually.

Senior Javon Bess started the season fast, peaked at midseason and tapered off as an injury took its toll.

Senior Tramaine Isabell Jr. needed until recent weeks to find the offensive form he had displayed at Drexel last season.

Sophomore Jordan Goodwin has been hit and miss.

Coach Travis Ford would like to flip a switch on everyone starting Thursday night when the Billikens open the Atlantic 10 tournament against Richmond at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“Everyone needs to bring their A game,” Ford said. “It doesn’t mean you have to score all the points. It may be rebounding, assists or defense. But you have to contribute. You have to make a positive impact on the game somehow, and all these guys are more than capable.”

The Billikens haven’t been able to get huge group efforts in many games this season.

For instance, now that Isabell has found his scoring touch, averaging 23.2 points in the last six games, Bess has struggled, shooting 29 percent over the same stretch as he battles an ankle injury.

Goodwin recently had back-to-back games in which he scored 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting. He followed with 14 points on five-for-22 shooting in the last two regular-season games.

“Coach Ford has talked about that, how certain guys will bring A and B games,” Goodwin said. “Then we’ve got a lot of C’s, a few D’s and a couple of F’s. We’re trying to get everyone to a C or B game so it doesn’t look too bad. … Everyone has to contribute a little more, whether it’s points, rebounds or steals.”

The Billikens ended up as the No. 6 seed for the tournament, meaning they would have to win four games in four days to win the championship and reach the NCAA Tournament.

It’s a long shot but one they want to believe is possible because of the team’s record against opponents it could see in Brooklyn.

Although SLU lost to Richmond, it will be favored in the rematch against the No. 11 seed. The Billikens split a pair of games with Dayton, which would be their quarterfinal foe. And they lost by a point to Davidson, which will be favored to advance to the semifinals.

There isn’t a team in the league that SLU didn’t beat or play tight to the end. But getting through even a couple of games with a small roster will be a challenge, although reserves KC Hankton and Demarius Jacobs should be available.

“I’d say we’re at about eight with the seven who play regularly,” Ford said. “The eighth (Hankton) is ready physically and even Jacobs can give us some minutes. So, I think we’ll go in with eight healthy bodies, hopefully.”

Making it harder to get the best performances out of most players has been the amount of time Bess, Isabell and Goodwin have spent on the court. Even Hasahn French has seen his time increase to 37 or 38 minutes in several recent games.

After recording double-doubles in seven out of 10 games, he has had one in the last nine.

Whether Ford will use Hankton and Jacobs to give his regulars some rest remains to be seen. Hankton has played nine minutes in the last five games and Jacobs essentially has not played since Jan. 18.

“We talked about that with our team. We’re not overly deep and need everybody to be ready and playing their best,” Ford said. “There’s very small room for error when you’re not playing a lot of guys.”

That has been the case in recent years. SLU won its first-round game last season before being eliminated by Davidson. In Ford’s first season, the Billikens won a play-in game and were knocked out the next night.

Isabell said it should be on each player to be ready to go at this time of the year.

“It’s the A-10 tournament,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s anything you can say or do for anybody to get them excited. If you’re not excited for this, I don’t know what you can get excited about.”


When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

All-time series: SLU leads 9-8

TV/radio: NBC Sports Network; WXOS (101.1 FM)

Records: SLU 10-8 in A-10, 19-12 overall; Richmond 6-12, 13-19

About the Billikens: Javon Bess was voted A-10 defensive player of the year and made the all-defensive team along with Hasahn French. … SLU has won one game in the A-10 tourney in each of coach Travis Ford’s seasons. … The Billikens are 22{sup}nd{/sup} in the country in rebound margin, averaging 6.2 more than their opponents. … SLU lost to Pitt at Barclays Center in November, shooting 43 percent and making 5 of 15 3s.

About the Spiders: Richmond advanced by scoring with .2 seconds remaining to beat Fordham 52-50 in a play-in game Wednesday. … The Spiders handed the Billikens one of their two home losses this season, winning 84-81 at Chaifetz Arena. … Guard Jacob Gilyard (16.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) was named to the A-10 all-conference second team and forward Grant Golden (17.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) to the third team.

Stu Durando is the SLU beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.