COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Instant analysis from St. Louis' 61-54 win over Memphis.
Overview: St. Louis dictated the pace of the game early, something the Billikens said they had to do prior to Friday’s game. Memphis loves to run. The Tigers are one of the best transition teams in the nation. And the Billikens were clear that they had to force the Tigers to play half-court basketball.
At halftime, St. Louis and Memphis were tied, 23-23. By then, the tempo favored the Billikens in their matchup against a Tigers team that had scored only 60 points or fewer two times this season.
But the Tigers, who shot 1-for-8 from the 3-point line in the first half, launched an 11-2 run that put them ahead 37-29 with 11:54 to play. The Billikens’ offense had stalled and then, Kwamain Mitchell arrived. The junior scored 22 points and led St. Louis to a win in its first NCAA tourney appearance since 2000.
Turning point: The Billikens were down by eight points midway through the second half. But St. Louis responded to Memphis’ run with a 16-5 rally of its own that turned the game.
Key player: Mitchell was hot, especially in the second half. He scored 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting. He was 6-for-9 after halftime. Brian Conklin added 16 points.
Key stat: Memphis went 2-for-15 from beyond the arc.
Miscellaneous: Memphis initially adjusted well to the slower tempo. But a late eight-minute stretch in which the Tigers recorded two field goals turned the game and showcased St. Louis’ defensive pressure. … Will Barton was the only Memphis player who recorded double figures. He scored 16 points.
What’s next: St. Louis will face top seed Michigan State on Sunday.