Mike McCall Jr. scored a game-high 16 points, and Saint Louis survived a second-half scare from Savannah State to post a 67-59 victory over the Tigers Friday night at Chaifetz Arena.
The Billikens (11-3) captured their eighth consecutive decision, all at home. The eight-game winning streak is SLU’s longest since the 2002-03 Bills won eight straight late in the season.
Savannah State, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, fell to 5-9 with its sixth consecutive loss.
McCall Jr., who entered the game second in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 3-point field goal shooting at 50 percent, was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, 5-of-7 overall and 3-of-3 from the foul line.
Cody Ellis was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and 6-of-7 from the stripe in his 15-point performance. Kwamain Mitchell used an 8-of-9 effort from the free-throw line to help him tally a season-high 13 points, and he tied for game-high honors with four assists.
Cory Remekun collected 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Jordair Jett chipped in nine points and three assists.
Preston Blackman led Savannah State with 13 points and four assists. Cedric Smith had 11 points and six rebounds, while Rashad Hassan scored 10 points.
Jyles Smith gathered a game-high nine rebounds as the Tigers topped the Billikens 36-20 on the glass. However, Saint Louis forced 19 Savannah State turnovers and outscored the Tigers 19-7 in points off turnovers.
In addition, SLU sank a season-high 25 free throws and outscored Savannah State 25-10 at the stripe. The Bills shot 80.6 percent (25-of-31) from the line, their best mark since connecting on 86.4 percent against USC Upstate in the season opener.
The Billikens also were dominant from beyond the arc, netting 8-of-17 from distance to Savannah State’s 1-of-5.
After Savannah State cut an eight-point halftime deficit in half early in the second stanza, Saint Louis seemingly took command with a 13-5 run that gave the Billikens their largest lead of the game.
McCall Jr. sparked the run with a 3-pointer from the left corner, and Remekun scored on a strong drive to the basket.
Ellis put the Bills on top 43-32 with an off-balance trey that just beat the shot clock. Jett followed with a trifecta from the top of the key, and SLU owned a 46-34 advantage with 13:22 left.
However, a 17-4 flurry gave Savannah State its only lead of the game at the six-minute mark. The Tigers scored on nine of 11 possessions during the run – 10 of 12 counting a field goal prior to Jett’s 3-pointer. Hassan scored the last eight points of the spurt, including two free throws that put Savannah State ahead 51-50.
Remekun responded right away with a three-point play. McCall Jr. turned a Tiger miscue into a pair of free throws that gave the Billikens a 55-51 lead.
After Khiry White’s steal and layup made it 55-53, Remekun secured a tipped pass and dunked to push the lead back to four. Blackman made it a one-possession game again when he collected his own miss and connected on a jumper in the lane with 2:16 to play.
Jett answered with a strong drive for a bucket. He was fouled and completed the three-point play, and a Mitchell free throw increased the lead to 61-55 with 1:04 left.
Arnold Louis’ layup following two of Savannah State’s 14 offensive rebounds kept the Tigers’ hopes alive with 39 seconds remaining. But Ellis made four straight free throws and Mitchell added a pair to put the victory on ice.
The Billikens led 12-2 after Ellis drained a 3-pointer from the left wing, and 15-5 following another Ellis trey from the opposite side.
Savannah State used a free throw from Louis, a three-point play from Jyles Smith and a baseline jumper from Blackman to cut the lead to 15-11. Following two Mitchell free throws and McCall Jr.’s jumper, Savannah State made it a four-point game again on Smith’s jumper and a fast-break dunk by Marcus Hutchins.
The Bills re-established a double-digit lead with a 10-4 run. Mitchell started the flurry with two free throws, and McCall followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 24-15 SLU advantage.
Buckets by Cedric Smith on consecutive possessions sliced the margin to five, but Jett’s jumper from just inside the arc and Mitchell’s top-of-the-key triple put Saint Louis in front 29-19.
Later, McCall Jr.’s second trey of the half gave the Billikens a 33-23 cushion. Hutchins sank two free throws to make it 33-25 at intermission.
The Billikens conclude their nine-game homestand Thursday, Jan. 10, when Massachusetts invades Chaifetz Arena for the A-10 opener. Tip time for the game, which will be televised by CBS Sports Network, is 8 p.m.