"[Hansbrough vs. Vouyoukas] is a good matchup. That youngster is really a good player. I remember the good moments he had [against us] last year and I don't remember any bad moments. I watched one of their game tapes last night and he's still extremely effective. ... I know Tyler has his work cut out for him, as does Brandan, Alex and Deon ..." -- Roy Williams
"Yeah, I do feel a little pressure [for my homecoming game]. It'd be a disappointment to me personally if I went down and played badly in front of everybody." -- Tyler Hansbrough
"I'm hopeful that we can play our best game on Friday because, needless to say, that's going to be prerequisite." -- Brad Soderberg
"If we can get this win against North Carolina, it would be a huge, huge thing for St. Louis." -- Ian Voyoukas
Season to Date: Saint Louis enters Friday night's game with a 9-2 record, its best start in 12 years. With four starters returning from a squad that finished 3rd in the Atlantic 10, the Billikens are far from a pushover. And they are also coming off of their highlight win of the season thus far, a buzzer-beating win Monday over a Missouri State team that took down Top 10 Wisconsin and is just a few votes shy of being ranked. They have no other wins over highly regarded competition, however, and their two losses were ugly affairs on the road -- a 69-33 loss in mid-November at No. 12 Texas A&M (in which SLU shot a mere 21 percent from the field, including 14 percent in the first half) and a 65-56 loss at Southern Illinois two weeks ago.
Controlling the Boards: A quick look at SLU's starting lineup reveals only one player over 6-5, but other than the Southern Illinois game (where allowing 14 offensive rebounds ultimately cost them the game) the Billikens have been able to overcome the lack of height for the most part this season and sport a +3.5 rebounding advantage through 11 games. A big reason is that the one player over 6-5 is first-team all-conference center Ian Vouyoukas. The 6-10, 270-pound senior is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game to go with 12.5 points and more than two blocks. The other main reason is Tommie Liddell, last season's conference Rookie of the Year, who while standing only 6-4, averages 8.4 rebounds per game from his starting wing spot. He also leads the team in three-point shooting (46%) and steals, and is second in scoring at 13.5 points per game.
Ball Control: In their two losses, the Billikens have averaged 16 turnovers per game. And in Monday's win over Missouri State, they committed 22 turnovers. Dwayne Polk has been a steady floor leader, sporting a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio, but Vouyoukas and Liddell combined for a whopping 15 turnovers on Monday.
Last Year's Meeting: Saint Louis gave the young Tar Heels a tough test last season in the Dec. 7 matchup in Chapel Hill. SLU led 33-30 at halftime, thanks in part to holding Tyler Hansbrough to just 4 points. Hansbrough, though, scored 17 second-half points, while Bobby Frasor ran the show recording 12 assists, and UNC prevailed, 75-63. The Billikens shot 56 percent on three-pointers for the game, while its star big man, Ian Vouyoukas, was held to six points (and 14 rebounds), before fouling out late.
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series, 2-1. Prior to last season's game, the two teams met during the 1959-60 season, when the Billikens took down the Tar Heels, 68-52, at the Kentucky Invitational at Lexington. Carolina won the first meeting in the Dixie Classic in Raleigh, 63-48, during the 1957-58 season.
A Billiken?: What in the world is a Billiken and why is Saint Louis have it as its nickname? In the early 20th century, small figurines described by SLU as "an ancient Asian figure – a chubby character with pixie ears, fat cheeks and an ear-to-ear grin," were seen as bringing good luck. In 1909 the Billiken Company of Chicago created a small statue of the figure and from that point forward it was named after the company. As for how it became associated with SLU, the school's football coach in 1910, John Bender, apparently looked a lot like the Billiken (which at that point had become a highly popular fad in the country) and sportswriters began to refer to the team as Bender's Billikens.
Background Location: Saint Louis, Mo. Enrollment: 11,823 Conference: Atlantic 10 Nickname: Billikens Colors: Blue & White Head Coach: Brad Soderberg Record at SLU: 69-63 (5th year) Last Year: 16-13 (10-6, 3rd)
Projected Starters: 00 Dwayne Polk (5-9, 160, Jr.) – 7.2 ppg, 3.0 apg 21 Kevin Lisch (6-2, 180, So.) - 14.9 ppg, 3.2 apg 25 Tommie Liddell (6-4, 200, So.) – 13.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg 32 Luke Meyer (6-5, 200, Jr.) – 9.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg 15 Ian Vouyoukas (6-10, 270, Sr.) – 12.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg Key Reserves: 1 Danny Brown (6-4, 200, Jr.) – 6.5 ppg 23 Justin Johnson (6-8, 230, Sr.) – 1.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Vouyoukas ....... Lisch
Liddell ....... Meter
Polk ....... Brown
(Photos courtesy AP)