St. Louis University overcame two tough opponents, George Mason and its own free throw shooting, on Wednesday to keep doing what it’s been doing all season.

The 10th-ranked Billikens won for the 18th consecutive time, beating the Patriots 89-85 in overtime to tighten their grip on first place in the Atlantic 10 and show that, when the going gets tough, the Billikens can find a way to win.

SLU came back from four points down early in overtime with one of its top players, Dwayne Evans, having fouled out of the game. And then, just as happened when the teams went to overtime in St. Louis, Rob Loe hit a couple of 3’s and Jordair Jett did what he always does, driving to the basket and scoring. And just like that, SLU is 24-2 overall, 11-0 in the Atlantic 10 and one step closer to its second straight Atlantic 10 title.

“We’re so old now we’ve been through these games before,” said Loe, one of the team’s five seniors, who now go down as the school’s winningest four-year class ever with 90. “I remember my freshman year, we weren’t losing by much but we were losing all the close ones. I think we’re in a mind-set we can win the close ones and we execute down the stretch and don’t let it mess with us.”

The challenge this time, though, was two-fold. SLU shot 60 percent at the foul line, making 21 of 35 free throws. All game long SLU had missed chances to extend its lead, and up a point with 27.1 seconds to go in regulation, Evans missed two free throws that could have given SLU some badly needed breathing room. George Mason (9-17, 2-10) would go ahead by a point with 5.4 seconds left, and Jett was fouled with 0.9 seconds left. Two free throws would win it for SLU, one would tie it, and none would lose it. Jett missed the first, hitting it off the back of the rim, and then made the second to send it to overtime.

“No pressure,” Jett said. “I should have made the first, but it was a little long. I knew I was making the second one. The first one felt like it should have gone in, so I knew the second one was going in.”

“I thought he’d make two,” SLU coach Jim Crews said. “Now, after he missed the first, making the second, that takes some gumption.”

It’s the second straight game SLU has shot 60 percent or worse at the line.

“We just had a bad night shooting free throws,” said Loe. “We’ll get in the gym. That’s something Coach is good at. He’ll tell us what’s wrong and we’ll work on that.”

Each game seems to bring a new milestone for SLU. This time, the win allowed SLU to match its best start ever in league play, an 11-0 record in the Missouri Valley Conference in 1946-47. The win also extended what may be a more impressive accomplishment, something even harder than winning 18 in a row. SLU is now a perfect 10-0 on the road, one of only three teams yet to lose away from its home court.

“I think (that’s more impressive),” Jett said. “There’s a lot more adversity on the road. You have to play harder and deal with bad calls. It’s all fun.”

Jett finished with 25 points after scoring just one in the first half and had eight assists and five rebounds. He had one of his typically Jett stretches in the second half, scoring 11 straight points, capped by his first 3-pointer since Jan. 7, to put SLU up 60-58 with 5 minutes to play. Mason clawed back into the lead with a three-point play by Sherrod Wright, who finished with a career-high 34 points, with 2:34 to play, and SLU went back ahead on a 3-pointer by Jake Barnett with 2:17 left. (Barnett hit four 3’s and had 14 points.) Mason tied the score at 69-69, and then Loe hit one of his four 3-pointers with 45 seconds to go in regulation to put SLU ahead 72-69. Wright scored again for Mason to cut the lead to one, which meant the Bills were going to have to win it at the worst possible place for them, the free throw line.

Evans missed the two with 27 seconds left, and then he fouled Jalen Jenkins with 5.4 seconds left and had to leave the game. Jenkins made two to put Mason up, and then Jett inbounded the ball to Loe, who gave it back to Jett, who drove to the basket. “Either they were going to foul me or I was going to score,” he said. He made just one of two, though, and the game went to overtime.