Saint Louis junior forward Dwayne Evans led four players in double figures with 21 points as the Billikens defeated USC Upstate 76-59 at Chaifetz Arena Friday night. It was the season opener for both squads.

Evans added a game-high eight rebounds as the Billikens mustered a 31-20 advantage on the glass. Senior forward Cody Ellis had 15 points, while junior guard Jordair Jettchipped in 14. Junior guard Mike McCall Jr. registered 14 points.

“Hats off to our guys,” SLU interim head coach Jim Crews said. “We really sustained our defensive presence for 40 minutes. We did a good job of taking out their 3s for the most part, as we did a good job of post defense. Upstate gave us a good challenge, I knew they were good coming in, and I know they are good going out. It was a hard fought game. We knew we had to earn it, and we earned it.”

The Billikens utilized a 9-0 run midway through the first half and opened up a 21-13 advantage with 8:06 to play in the opening session. USC Upstate trimmed its deficit to just four with 5:40 left in the half, but a Grandy Glaze bucket sparked a 7-0 rally that helped the Bills open an 11-point lead. Saint Louis led 36-28 at halftime.

Upstate did not go down quietly and pulled within two, 44-42, with 13:12 remaining. But from that point, the Billikens went on a 10-2 spurt, capped by a key 3-pointer from freshman guard Keith Carter. USC Upstate again rallied and pulled within three before baskets by Rob Loe and Jett gave SLU a comfortable margin. Jake Barnett hit a 3-pointer late in the game and the Billikens posted the 76-59 win.

SLU shot 51.9 percent from the field and hit 19 of its 22 free-throw attempts.

Evans’ game-high 21 points came on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul line. Jett and McCall Jr. were both 5-of-9 from the floor.

Ellis had a solid all-around game, hitting 4-of-8 from the field and hitting all seven of his free throws to account for 15 points. He also pulled down six rebounds.

Friday’s game was the first of two home games as part of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. The Billikens face Santa Clara next Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in Chaifetz Arena.