The No. 25 Saint Louis Billikens will finally return to action Tuesday when they host the Dayton Flyers.
This will be the Atlantic 10 opener for the Billikens (7-1), who have not played since Dec. 23 due to a sweeping COVID-19 outbreak on their team.
"I would not say we are starting from scratch, but we are reviewing everything from the beginning," Billikens coach Travis Ford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I'm trying to figure out, how hard can I push them, and how much rest do they need? What do we need to spend more time on?"
The Flyers (8-4 overall, 4-3 A-10) had their three-game winning snapped during their ugly, 66-43 loss at Virginia Commonwealth.
"They definitely hindered us from flowing into our stuff like we usually do," Flyers forward Zimi Nwokeji said. "However frustrating it was, there was no excuse for not being able to bounce back."
Dayton scored just 13 points in the first half, tying a school record for fewest points scored in a half.
"When you don't see the shots fall and the lead starts to swell on their end, you've got a choice to make," Flyers coach Anthony Grant told the Dayton Daily News. "How do you handle adversity? We weren't able to recover at any point."
Now, the Flyers must try to rebound against the Billikens, who are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2013-14 -- when they appeared in the rankings for 10 different weeks.
The Billikens earned their national standing with nonconference victories over LSU, 85-81, and N.C. State, 80-69, at home. Their only loss came at Minnesota, 90-82, on Dec. 20.
The Billikens are led by the offensive tandem of Javonte Perkins (17.8 points per game) and Jordan Goodwin (16.9). Perkins has made 54.8 percent of his 3-point shots and Goodwin has both scored and rebounded in double figures seven times this season.
Perimeter shooter Gibson Jimerson (11.3 points per game, 42.5 percent 3-point shooting) offers scoring depth for the Billikens. Post player Hasahn French is averaging 8.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.
The Billikens will have just a few full practices to get ready to host Dayton.
"I feel a bit rushed, because we want to get back on the court and play a game," Ford said. "I don't want the players to worry about it as much as I'm totally consumed by it. But at the end of the day there is not an answer. We are trying to do the best we can."
The Flyers are led by guard Jalen Crutcher (18.3 points, 4.4 assists per game) and Ibi Watson (15.0 points per game). Both are shooting better than 42 percent from 3-point range this season.
But they combined for 4-for-17 shooting overall and just nine points against Virginia Commonwealth's swarming defense.
"As bad as it is, it's over with, and we've got to look forward," said Dayton center Jordy Tshimanga, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds in the loss.
--Field Level Media