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Explorers play host to 13th-ranked Billikens

<p>The 13th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens take aim at their 16th straight victory, as they visit the La Salle Explorers in an Atlantic 10 Conference bout at Tom Gola Arena.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The 13th-ranked Saint Louis Billikens take aim at their 16th straight victory, as they visit the La Salle Explorers in an Atlantic 10 Conference bout at Tom Gola Arena.

Saint Louis has been one of the hottest teams in the country, with its last loss coming back on Dec. 1 when it dropped a five-point decision to fourth- ranked Wichita State. The Billikens are 21-2 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference play, with their next matchup a critical test against VCU.

La Salle has not been doing well of late, with losses in four of its last five games, including a 79-67 setback against Massachusetts on Wednesday. The Explorers, who made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last year, are just 12-10 overall and an even 4-4 in conference action this season. They will host cross-town rival Saint Joseph's next.

In the only meeting between the two teams last season, the Billikens earned an easy 78-54 triumph over the Explorers. Saint Louis has won three straight and 10 of the 16 meetings in the all-time series.

Even on the road, Saint Louis clamped down on defense and limited Saint Joseph's to 31.9 percent shooting in a 65-49 victory at Hagan Arena. The Billikens knocked down 44 percent of their shots from the floor and outscored the Hawks 17-7 off of turnovers.

The success of the Billikens is built on their performance on defense. They are seventh in the country in opponent's scoring average (58.6 ppg), and 17th in opponent's field goal percentage (.387). Dwayne Evans (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is the team's best scorer, as well as its top performer on the glass. However, despite tying for a team-high seven rebounds against Saint Joseph's, Evans had only eight points on 4-of-10 shooting. Jordair Jett (12.7 ppg, 4.9 apg) is a talented contributor in the backcourt, ranking third in the A-10 in assists. Meanwhile, Rob Loe (10.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) provides some scoring punch in the paint.

It was La Salle that was limited offensively in its battle with UMass. The Explorers only made 39.7 percent of their shots from the floor, including 5- of-15 from 3-point range. Jerrell Wright scored 16 points as the top scorer in the losing effort.

La Salle has not had much success on offense in general this season, ranking 10th in the league in scoring (69.6 ppg) and 12th in field goal percentage (.413). Tyreek Duren (14.5 ppg, 3.5 apg) is the leading scorer for the unit, despite shooting just 41.3 percent from the field. Duren had 13 points against UMass, but was erratic with his shot, netting just 5-of-16 from the field. Tyrone Garland (13.9 ppg) and Wright (12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) are both averaging in double figures as well, while Steve Zack (9.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.1 bpg) is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court.

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