Junior point guard Kwamain Mitchell scored a season-high 20 points and junior forward Brian Conklin added 18 to power Saint Louis to a 62-51 victory against Boston College Thursday in the opening game of the 76 Classic at Anaheim Arena.
The Billikens, who are receiving votes in both the AP poll and ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, move to 4-0. The victory marked the second in a row against a power conference foe after the Billikens topped Washington last Sunday.
Next up for SLU is a matchup against Villanova (4-0) of the Big East Friday at 1:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN. The Wildcats, who are also receiving votes in both polls, topped UC Riverside 71-46 in the second game of the tournament.
Mitchell’s 20 points came on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor and 3-7 from long range. He was a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe, recorded four assists and did not commit a turnover.
Conklin was 7-of-11 from the floor and tied for team-high honors with four rebounds. He also tied a career-high with three steals. Junior forward Cody Ellis recorded eight points, while senior guard Kyle Cassity chipped in seven. Ellis and junior forward Cory Remekun totaled four rebounds apiece.
The Billikens turned the ball over just seven times while forcing 20 Boston College turnovers.
Saint Louis came out of the gates a bit sluggish, hitting just two of its first eight shots to trail 13-5 early on. But the Billikens would score the next six points, capped by an Ellis 3-pointer, to pull within two at 15-13 with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
The lead would change hands over the next several minutes. A Mitchell trey put the Billikens up by two at 22-20, and Conklin made it 24-22 with 2:05 to go. From that point, the Billikens would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way and took a 29-23 lead into halftime, thanks in part to a trey by Mitchell in the Bills’ final possession of the half.
Conklin, who had just two points in the first half, got things started in the second half by scoring four of his 16 second-half points in the first two minutes. Mitchell, Cassity and sophomore guard Mike McCall Jr. hit consecutive 3-pointers as the Billikens stretched out to a 14-point lead at 42-28 with 15:55 to play.
The Billiken advantage got as high as 15 points with 8:02 to go when Conklin converted a bucket in the lane, but the Eagles did not go down quietly. A pair of treys by BC’s Ryan Anderson and Matt Humphrey cut the Billiken lead to nine with 5:25 to go. Humphrey hit two field goals as BC trailed by seven with less than three minutes remaining.
Mitchell put the game away when he hit a pair of free throws and a jumper, and the Billiken defense held the Eagles scoreless down the stretch for the 62-51 SLU victory.