Created: 12/01/2013 4:05 PM
(AP) ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis was in it until the final minute against No. 12 Wichita State, much like it was against No. 10 Wisconsin.
The defending Atlantic 10 champions say they’re ready for Top 25 competition, but have yet to show it.
"We can only dismiss so many opportunities to get statement wins early in the year," forward Dwayne Evans said after a 70-65 loss to the unbeaten Shockers (8-0) on Sunday. "We just didn’t make the right plays down the stretch and they ended up biting us."
Ron Baker had 22 points, six rebounds and four steals and No. 12 Wichita State got a pair of key plays from Fred VanVleet in the closing second and outscored Saint Louis 6-1 the final minute.
The Billikens missed two 3-point attempts, left Baker unguarded on the baseline for the go-ahead basket and Jake Barnett missed a second free throw with a chance to tie it at 66 with 30.1 seconds to go.
Coach Jim Crews isn’t interested in coming close. He swatted down a question about the game against a school that made it to the Final Four last season, and how it resembled NCAA tournament intensity.
"Are you on the committee?" Crews said. "If so, I appreciate that very much. We’ve got a long way to go to get there."
Cleanthony Early hit a layup off VanVleet’s pass for a 68-65 lead with 14 seconds to go, and VanVleet added a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds left. Early missed eight of 12 shots but hit a pair of key 3-pointers late and had 12 points for the Shockers (8-0).
Evans had 18 points and nine rebounds for Saint Louis (6-2). Tekele Cotton had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Chadrack Lufile had 12 points and five rebounds for Wichita State.
"You have to beat those teams," Crews said. "In other words, nothing’s easy. I don’t look at losing as a positive but you can really learn."
Baker drove the lane for the go-ahead basket on a late-arriving Evans.
"We had a couple missed assignments," Evans said. "Myself, I was late on a couple things."
Saint Louis honored Rick Majerus during a halftime ceremony on the anniversary of his death. Former players Luke Meyer and Paul Eckerle gave tributes and athletic director Chris May gave Majerus’ A-10 championship ring from last season to Angie Kvidera, the coach’s longtime girlfriend.
A banner commemorating Majerus’ 517 career victories has hung over center court since soon after his death at 64.
"That was the greatest four years of my life," said Eckerle, who had been a backup guard. "Coach changed our lives forever."
Both of Saint Louis’s big men fouled out. Rob Loe fouled out for the second straight game with 4:20 to go, finishing with 11 points and five rebounds, and backup John Manning had two points and a rebound before drawing his fifth with 1:57 left and the game tied at 63.
Early missed his first six shots, getting his first points on a thundering dunk off a turnover with 1:12 left in the half.
Saint Louis made its first three shots for an 8-0 lead, two of them 3-pointers by Mike McCall. Wichita dug an early hole, trailing missing 10 of its first 12 shots and trailing by as many as 10 points, before beginning a 17-0 that put the Shockers up 24-16 with 4:39 to go in the half.
Austin McBroom had five points in an 11-0 run by Saint Louis that quickened the pace, and Loe hit a follow shot with two seconds to go for a 29-28 lead.