BC-BKC--A10-Davidson-Saint Louis,1st Ld-Writethru
NEW YORK (AP) — Tramaine Isabell Jr. had 19 points and eight assists to spark sixth-seeded Saint Louis to a 67-44 rout of second-seed Davidson in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals on Saturday.
Javon Bess scored 24 points for the Billikens (22-12), who play fourth-seed St. Bonaventure in Sunday’s championship game. St. Bonaventure defeated Rhode Island 68-51 in the other semifinal. The Bonnies beat Saint Louis 66-57 in their only regular-season meeting on March 9.
“You (have) a lot of respect for St. Bonaventure and how they’re playing,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said.
Saint Louis last reached the Atlantic 10 championship game in 2013, when the Billikens beat VCU, 62-56.
Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who was named the Atlantic 10′s Player of the Year on Tuesday, led the Wildcats (24-9), who hope for a bid to the NIT, with 15 points and Luka Brajkovic added 12.
I’m always the optimist,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “I thought we could have 20 (wins).”
The second matchup of the season between the programs — Davidson took a 54-53 decision on Jan. 26 — was deadlocked 29-29 at halftime.
Isabell broke the stalemate by scoring the first 10 points of the second half for Saint Louis and the first seven of a 12-0 run. Jordan Goodwin hit a 3-pointer and Javon Bess added a jumper, and the Billikens led 44-31 five minutes into the second half. A Foreman layup with 10:56 left extended the lead to 16, 49-33.
“We competed at a high level,” Ford said. “Guys (stayed) locked in. I don’t think they ever looked at the scoreboard and ever rested. That’s out of respect to Davidson.”
Hasahn French’s 3-point play with 3:38 left gave the Billikens a 59-41 advantage. Isabell’s two made free throws with 57 seconds left gave Saint Louis a 24-point lead, its biggest of the game.
Saint Louis went 14 of 30 in the second half and finished the game at 48 percent, including 8 of 17 from 3-point range. Davidson finished at 26 percent after a 5 of 29 second half, which included going 2 of 18 from distance.
Our offense was helping our defense,” Ford said.