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November 19, 2011 at 9:35 AM

A view from the other side: Q&A with Saint Louis beat writer

St. Louis Post dispatch reporter Tom Timmermann, who covers the Billikens, spoke with us and gave a brief preview of Sunday’s Washington-Saint Louis game.
Here’s the transcript of our conversation.
(What’s going on with Saint Louis this year?) “They thought they would be very good last year and that didn’t happen when they lost Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed. Now that Mitchell is back, the team is playing where they thought they would be last year. It’s a talented and an experienced team with the addition of Mitchell at point guard. Last year, they were starting four freshmen a lot of the time so this year they’re not starting any freshmen.”
(What makes the defense so good?) “They are a very disciplined group. They know where they’re supposed to go and do what they’re supposed to do. It’s a straight up man to man. They game plan it to death. The first game they played Tennessee State and that was a game that had a lot of people who could shoot the three-pointers and they just took the three away from them. They had a different strategy going up against Southern Illinois.
(Rick) Majerus’ philosophy has always been not to let the best guy beat you, which is hard to do against Washington because as you know there’s not one guy or two guys. Now there’s four guys or five guys. It’s a very disciplined and detailed bunch. Majerus is famous for his defense. These guys because they’re all experienced and have been with him in some cases for four years, they know what to do and they know how to follow what he wants.”

(Last year SLU struggled offensively. Has that changed?) “Yes it’s changed a little. The big guy, their inside guy Rob Loe has not really found his touch. He was 0 for 4 against Southern Illinois. They don’t have much of a low-post game. Much of their inside scoring comes from Brian Conklin whose 6-6. Their three-point shooters can get going and that will help. Kyle Cassity and Kwamain Mitchell those have been the main guys on their three-point shooting.
Cody Ellis is from Australia. He’s a junior now. He had trouble with eligibility issues so he didn’t in until the middle of his freshman year and he jumped in and was immediately great. It was like wow, tremendous. How would the season had been if he would have been here all along. Then he kind of faded as the year went on because he just got worn out because he had no early season conditioning. Last year Majerus has been on him about playing defense and whether he was thinking too much about playing defense he didn’t shoot real well last year. He dislocated his shoulder at Xavier and was done for the season so he only played about half of the season last year. So this is the first time he’s had a full off season. Between his freshman year and sophomore year he also had mononucleosis and he then burned his hand in a Fourth of July sparkler incident. So he’s been kind of cursed since he’s been here. But he’s been shooting pretty well. He’s also rebounding pretty well. He’s actually drawn two charges this year, which is not something we would have expected from Cody in the past.”
(What type of reception are you expecting for Lorenzo Romar and Scott Suggs?) “I would expect that Romar will be welcomed. They haven’t gone to a NCAA tournament since he was here. He has a lot of people who remember him fondly. But in kind there are people who may think if he had stayed, he could have got something going and the program really could have gotten back to where it was a few years before under Charlie Spoonhour. I don’t think anyone can begrudge the fact that he went back to the place where he played college basketball. I don’t think anyone believed Lorenzo Romar would be a guy who would stay at Saint Louis for 15 years. They knew bigger and better things were going to come. He was going to get a Pac-10 job. So I think he will be welcomed back and I expect Scott Suggs will be warmly greeted. It’s not a case where a lot of people thought Saint Louis had a chance of getting him because of his relationship with Romar. So I don’t think there’s going to be too many hard feelings about him on that.”
(What do you think will happen with the game?) “I bad at predictions so I don’t do them. I don’t know which direction this game will go. SLU has a knack for playing really well in games like this. Non-conference and home game and big one on the schedule, they get up for it and the guys do the right thing. They played and beat Boston College a few years ago here. Playing at home they have a knack. The downside is they don’t match up very well. Their guards are 6-1 and 6-1 and they’re going to be going up against bigger, stronger and faster guys. The matchup doesn’t work well, but Majerus has a knack for coming up with defenses that can get the job done. I don’t have a good idea at all how this will play out. I think they’ll keep it close, but beyond that it can go either way.”
(What do you think are the keys to the game?) “SLU has got to play at their pace. They got to slow the game down to where they’re comfortable. SLU is not going to win an 85-81 game. That’s not going to happen. If they can make it a 50-point game and SLU has to make their shots, then they’ll have a chance. But they’re going to have to get threes. They’re going to have to make shots when they’re open. A lot of times they get good shots, but they don’t make them. They got to get good shots and make them. But tempo is the main thing and they got to set the tempo in this game.”

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