While this season's crop of freshmen have taken college basketball by storm, senior-led Saint Louis continues to win.
Enjoying their best start in conference play in nearly six decades, the 19th-ranked Billikens go for a 13th straight victory Wednesday night when they host Richmond.
Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0 Atlantic 10) has gone unbeaten since falling 70-65 to No. 4 Wichita State on Dec. 1, winning 12 straight for its longest run since 1993-94. The Billikens, who have outscored opponents by an average of 12.4 points during the winning streak, survived a scare in last Wednesday's 76-72 victory at Duquesne.
Austin McBroom's 3-pointer with 47 seconds left put Saint Louis up for good, and senior Mike McCall scored a team-high 13 points, including two clutch free throws with 13 seconds remaining. Jordair Jett added 10 points and a career-high 11 assists and Rob Loe also scored 10 for the Billikens, who are one of only a handful of teams to start five seniors.
"Our seniors have been through it," coach Jim Crews said. "They have good wisdom and poise about themselves. They move on to try to do the next right thing when we screw up or are behind. They're pretty resilient that way."
Saint Louis, which shot a season-best 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from 3-point range, has won its first five league games for the first time since opening 6-0 in Missouri Valley play in 1955-56.
"These kids have done a good job being off to a good start here in the league," Crews said. "We don't play until (Wednesday), which will be tough, but these guys have a well-deserved day off or so here, so that will be nice."
Saint Louis is seeking a third consecutive win over the Spiders after taking last season's only matchup 56-46 in Richmond on Feb. 9. The Billikens overcame Cedrick Lindsay's 20-point performance, holding the Spiders to 23.3 percent shooting and outrebounding them 42-28.
Richmond (14-6, 4-1) is coming off Saturday's 77-62 victory over Saint Joseph's, its season high-tying fourth win in a row. Kendall Anthony led the way with 19 points, Lindsay had 16 and Trey Davis added 14 and 12 rebounds.
The Spiders went 10 of 22 from 3-point range, improving to 6-0 when they're above 38.0 percent.
"As time goes on here, guys have developed a little bit more confidence because of how much work they've put in with it," coach Chris Mooney said.
Staying hot from outside could prove difficult against the Billikens, who are holding teams to 27.5 percent from beyond the arc to rank top 10 in the country. Richmond isn't far behind at 28.0 percent.
"Ya know, they're all big, (but) Saint Louis is tremendous," Mooney said. "Great team, obviously a great, great defensive team. Very balanced, really good players. Veteran players. So this is going to be something we have to really focus on and play well to stay competitive."
Anthony is averaging 19.3 points over the last three games, 5.3 more than his season mark. He scored a season-high 21 last Wednesday as Richmond got by then-No. 13 Massachusetts 58-55.
However, the Spiders have been outscored by an average of 16.4 points during a 12-game road losing streak against Top 25 foes dating to 2004.
The Billikens, whose only other defeat came 63-57 to then-No. 10 Wisconsin on Nov. 26, have won 22 straight and 30 of 31 against unranked teams dating to last season.