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Liddell scores 22 as Saint Louis upsets Rhode Island

Jan 18, 2008 - 5:54 AM ST LOUIS (Ticker) -- The best offense is a good defense - at least for Saint Louis.

The offensively challenged Billikens received 22 points from Tommie Liddell en route to a 68-61 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Thursday in an Atlantic 10 contest.

Paul Eckerle and Luke Meyer joined Liddell in double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively, for Saint Louis (10-7, 1-2 A-10), which is just two games removed from setting a dubious NCAA record for fewest points in a game in the shot-clock era during a 49-20 loss at George Washington on January 10.

"We started off 0-2 in the conference so we definitely needed to get on the right track," Meyer said. "We knew it wasn't going to be an easy task. They are a big team. We fought hard, played some really good defense and got some great contribution from Adam (Knollmeyer) and our bench tonight. It was a real good win for us.

"Basketball is a crazy game. We had a terrible night last Thursday. We had to move on and we did. It feels good beating a ranked team because they are going to be a force in the conference. We were just happy to get away with a win."

The Billikens entered Thursday's contest leading the A-10 in scoring defense while allowing just 58 points per game.

"Coming into this game, we knew Rhode Island played tough," Liddell said. "We just wanted to focus on playing great defense. We boxed out good for the most part. The team really hustled and we came out with the win tonight."

Conversely, the Rams (15-3, 1-2) entered the contest as the top-scoring team in the conference, shooting 49 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the arc while averaging 83 points per game. But Rhode Island never found a rhythm against the stingy Saint Louis defense, shooting 34 percent (23-of-67) from the floor and just 5-of-17 from 3-point range.

Will Daniels led the Rams with just 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

"They (Saint Louis) played very physical, very aggressive, used their bodies probably as good as anybody that we play against," Rhode Island coach Jim Baron said. "Daniels got into foul trouble early and took us out of our momentum. You have to give them credit, they did a good job of sharing the basketball and playing defense."

The Billikens pushed the lead to as much as 12 points at 55-43 with 3:48 left in the game on Knollmeyer's layup.

The Rams fought back to cut it to 60-55 on a layup with 43 seconds left, but Liddell responded with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 63-55 with 11 seconds remaining.

Liddell, who finished 9-of-12 from the floor, poured in 16 points in the second half, while Eckerle grabbed a defensive rebound and hit a pair of free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

"I told the team I felt better about the way they practiced, but actually I felt very good about the win," Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus. "I'm happy for them. They are really trying their heart out, for the most part. It is hard to have to win these games a couple times over.

"Nothing helps you like hustle. We won it defensively, and we are getting better and better defensively. I thought they competed. They had a nice spirit about them."