(Note: Thanks to all that made me aware of this story.)
Rick Majerus has had a colorful career. He’s done some amazing things on the floor, most notably leading a WAC team to the NCAA title game in 1998. He’s done some amazing things off the floor, which include a variety of interesting motivational tactics, most thoroughly detailed in this piece. He’s publicly declared that the team he coaches is in the wrong conference, and announced on national TV that he’s “not a big gay guy”, as if there was some confusion about that after his on-air comments about Ashley Judd.
He was also the architect of the 20-point game, the lowest point total in the shot clock era. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise that if there was one man that could defy logic and take on the challenge of completing a game by making only 2-point shots, it was Majerus. And on Saturday at the Robins Center in Richmond, that’s exactly what Saint Louis did – and they made it look a lot easier than it should have been.
It started innocently enough: The Billikens actually got to the free throw line on their very first possession. But Willie Reed failed to complete a three-point play, and SLU wouldn’t get to the line again in the first half, missing all five of their 3-point attempts in the process. Despite trailing by 17 at the half, the Billikens would only launch five more 3’s in the second half. The only tense moment was when Reed went to the line for two free throws at the 7:28 mark. Reed was just a 53 percent shooter coming in, but even so, there was a 78 percent chance he would make at least one.
He clanked them both and suddenly the miracle was possible. Saint Louis didn’t get back to the line, and when Justin Jordan, a 40 percent three-point shooter, missed a long-range attempt in the final minute, the impossible happened. As I said in my original post, it’s possible this has happened before. But it definitely hasn’t happened since the ‘04 season and it would seem unlikely for it to happen more than about once in every ten years, although it probably occurred more often in the late ‘80s when the three was not shot as often as it would be in the ‘90s.
There was really nothing to suggest that Saint Louis was a good candidate for this. They shoot a normal amount of threes and while they don’t get to the line often, they get there often enough. The real key is to have a crappy oh-fense, which the Billikens do have under their defense-obsessed coach. When you take 80 percent of your shots from inside the arc and only get to the free throw line three times, you are doing something wrong.
(On a related note, I have one interesting observation from looking at that 20-point box score. Marcus Relphorde was one of the reserves for SLU in that game. He hardly ever got off the bench that season. He’s now starting for Colorado and performing well enough that you have to think he could have had an impact in the A-10. I don’t care if he didn’t grasp the defensive system. You need to score some points to be successful.)
I’m not sure how the Majerus era at Saint Louis will work out, but at least he continues to give us some special memories.