ST. LOUIS Nobody is calling Saint Louis Billikens forwards Rob Loe or Cody Ellis the next Dirk Nowitzki just yet. But that might soon change if the two international big men continue to be this impressive from the outside.
The 6-foot-11 Loe went 3-for-6 from 3-point range, and the 6-foot-8 Ellis went 3-for-5 as the two combined for 30 points in just 29 minutes to lead Saint Louis to a laughable 65-35 win over Alabama State on Saturday night at Chaifetz Arena.
"Me and Cody, we can both spread the floor," Loe said. "Most bigs' aren't used to guarding someone that can knock it down from the outside."
Loe is 7,980 miles and more than 17 hours on a plane from his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand and he's not even the furthest from home on the Saint Louis roster. Ellis, a Perth, Australia, native, is 10,980 miles and a 20-hour plane trip from home.
And both have brought their international game with them.
"The international game is just so different from the college game over here and the NBA," Ellis said. "From a young age, we're all taught to shoot no matter how tall we are, which I think is a huge advantage. Obviously being 7-foot and being able to knock down a triple is massive. Even at my height, it's a pretty good advantage."
Loe, a sophomore who came in averaging just 4.0 points and 13.3 minutes per game, came out firing early. He hit two short shots and a 3-pointer to put Saint Louis up 19-5 midway through the first half.
Ellis then hit two free throws and had consecutive buckets to put the Billikens up 29-9 late in the half. The Billikens led 33-11 at halftime and used two 3-pointers from Loe early in the second half and a three from Ellis to take a 54-19 lead with 12:51 to play in the game.
Loe went 5-for-8 overall to finish with 15 points in just 14 minutes. Ellis was also 5-for-8 from the field and also finished with 15 points in 15 minutes.
Both could and likely would have had even more impressive games had they not sat out much of the second half as Billikens coach Rick Majerus opted to give rare playing time to his bench with the game out of hand.
"The foreign game is different," Majerus said. "The trapezoid lane, there's no low block play and there's no physical play. So you have to be a hell of a player in international ball. Rob is used to shooting.
"I give Cody a lot of credit. Cody leads our team in charges this year but he was very soft the first couple years. He focused and he's playing harder and playing with his body more. We have to take what Rob can give us. He likes (shooting 3's), he's good at that so we need to look at what he's good at."
The Billikens also got nine points and seven assists from guard Kwamain Mitchell and eight points and six rebounds from forward Brian Conklin.
Guard Mike McCall Jr. didn't play for the Billikens because Majerus said he did not live up to his personal academic standards. The self-imposed suspension had nothing to do with the University and Majerus wouldn't say whether McCall would return for their next game on Thursday.
Saint Louis improved to 10-1 on the season, their best start since the 1993-94 season.
While several players contributed, it was Loe who set the pace early for the Billikens in his best game of the season.
"You have to remember where he's from," Majerus said. "There's more sheep than people in that country. There are. I've been there."
And if the two international forwards continue to play like this, Majerus and the Billikens may look to add as many of them as they can in future years.