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St. Louis beats Oklahoma, 83-63, to win 76 Classic

Billikens execute well in all facets of the basketball game and improve to 6-0. They play at Loyola Marymount on Tuesday.

November 27, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Saint Louis forward Cory Remekun, left, and Oklahoma guard Calvin Newell Jr. chase after a loose ball during the Billikens' 83-63 victory in the 76 Classic championship game at the Anaheim Convention Center on Sunday.
Saint Louis forward Cory Remekun, left, and Oklahoma guard Calvin Newell… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / U.S.…)

St. Louis plays noisy basketball.

Shoes squeak because the Billikens are always moving their feet, whether on offense or defense.

Players shout. They chatter to each other, call out defenses, bark out what play has been called, warn each other away from screens.

The 2,637 who came Sunday to the Anaheim Convention Center for the 76 Classic were rewarded hearing the sounds of a basketball team that has a good plan.

St. Louis (6-0) won the championship with an 83-63 win over Oklahoma (4-1). The Billikens will stick around Southern California until a Tuesday game at Loyola Marymount.

By then it would seem the Billikens will be a ranked team, which they weren't when they arrived in California.

Not that they care.

"The ranking doesn't matter," said Brian Conklin, the tournament's most outstanding player who had 25 points on nine-for-11 shooting from the field and seven for seven from the free-throw line against the Sooners. "We're not playing to get a better ranking. We're playing to get better as a team."

Sooners Coach Lon Kruger, who led Nevada Las Vegas to the Classic title a year ago, said he expects St. Louis will do well as the season moves ahead.

"I think they'll win a ton of games," Kruger said. "That's an experienced club. They respect what each can do, they play well together. They're tough, experienced, they know what they want to get out of their offense. And they're physical."

Kruger was impressed with Conklin, a 6-foot-6 senior from Eugene, Ore., who slipped under the recruiting radar of most Pac-12 Conference teams.

"He's such a big, strong guy," Kruger said. "He has a good feel for the game, he knows how to get open inside, he has a great attitude and he works extremely hard the whole game."

Conklin said he was honored to have been selected the best player of the tournament, then pointed to the fact Oklahoma had 15 offensive rebounds as something that will be a point of emphasis at practice.

Coach Rick Majerus was more forthcoming with praise for his team.

"We play hard, we're not nearly as athletic as some, we do block out, we do take pretty good care of the ball," he said. "Our guys do a pretty good job of keeping a body on someone, they play with good poise and composure, they're good with defense."

Some consolation

Santa Clara (4-2), coached by former UCLA assistant Kerry Keating, won the third-place game with a 65-64 win over Villanova (4-2). UC Riverside (2-4) earned its first win in the three-game event, 64-63 over Washington State (2-4) and New Mexico (3-2) won its second game at the Classic, 75-57 over Boston College (2-3).

Riverside had a 14-0 second-half run to rally from a 56-42 deficit.

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