Game Recap: Xavier 70, St. John's 60

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Musketeers win their first Big East conference game

Going scoreless in the first 8:05 while missing their first eleven shots was not the start Xavier had in mind for its first Big East conference game on Tuesday against St. John’s. The Musketeers relied on their defensive effort early and the offense eventually came around as the home team defeated the Red Storm 70-60 to kick off the Big East quintuple header to close out 2013. Asked about the offensive struggles early, Xavier’s Semaj Christon said, "We had good shots…we still played good defense, we didn’t let that effect us on the defensive side". St. John’s was held to a season low 30.6 percent from the field for the game.

Steve Lavin caught Xavier off guard in the first half, bringing his team out in a 2-3 zone that showcased length and athleticism, and forced Xavier to shoot 3-pointers at end of shot clock situations. Five different Musketeers missed 3-pointers in the opening drought, that was ended with a Matt Stainbrook lay-up at the 11:55 mark. More buckets inside followed that first conversion, as Semaj Christon attacked the zone from the free throw line, either finding teammates or creating for himself. Freshman Brandon Randolph also made an impact, scoring seven first half points off the bench.

At the beginning of the second half, enigmatic Justin Martin exploded for Xavier, scoring nine points in a 13-0 Xavier run to open up an eleven point lead. After missing their first 11 shots in the first half, Xavier opened the second half by making nine of eleven field goals. One of the two misses was even followed immediately by a Martin tip shot. The performance from Martin was encouraging, as the junior was coming off games against Alabama and Wake Forest where he was a non-factor offensively.

Xavier’s defensive strategy entering the game was keeping the Red Storm out of transition and forcing jump shots in a half-court setting. While St. John’s shot well from behind the arc, 50% on 14 shots, they struggled on contested 2-point jump shots. According to play-by-play data from ESPN.com, Steve Lavin’s team made only 6 of 36 jump shots (16.6%) inside the 3-point line. D’Angelo Harrison, who entered the contest 2nd in the Big East in scoring, scored 21 points, but needed 20 shots to do so and was 2-11 on 2-point jump shots. The lack of a shooting threat for St. John’s big men such as Chris Obekpo allowed the Musketeers’ big men to hedge ball screens longer, not allowing the Red Storm guards to create trouble with penetration.

Another storyline entering the game was St. John’s ability to alter and block shots; and that intimidation was evident early, as the Musketeers settled for 3-pointers early in the contest. Xavier took six 3-pointers in their opening drought, but only ten the rest of the game, nailing four of them. Center Matt Stainbrook appeared especially tentative in the first half, passing up shots inside and getting two shots blocked. The aggressive Musketeers shot all 21 of their free throws in the second half, as the Red Storm mixed up defensive strategies.

Grading the Musketeers

Dee Davis

C-

The length of St. John’s clearly flustered Davis, who missed three lay-up attempts inside. Davis did play adequate defense on the Red Storm perimeter players, forcing contested shots, even though some did fall.

Semaj Christon

A

For a player likely to test the NBA waters after the season, Christon has been playing incredibly unselfish as of late. Christon took only nine shots, and three of those were 3-pointers as the shot clock expired. The combo guard had 8 assists and no turnovers, and was effective in the middle of the zone, creating opportunities for his teammates. Continuing stellar play on the defensive end, Christon had 2 steals and 2 blocks. The hometown product has embraced his role, but will still be called upon to score in certain games this season.

Justin Martin

A

Martin’s 9 points in Xavier’s 13-0 run to begin the second half egnited the home crowd and gave the Musketeers the lead they never gave up. Martin scored in a variety of ways during the run; a three pointer in transition, a tip shot off a missed three pointer, and layup following a steal. A professional psychologist would have a hard time figuring out the junior forward’s inconsistency, as he was coming off two games where he shot a combined 3-13.

Isaiah Philmore

C+

The final numbers look good, 11 points and nine rebounds. However, many of Philmore’s buckets were layups created by great passes from his teammates. The 5-6 free throw shooting was encouraging, and Xavier fans should be accustomed to getting at least seven rebounds a night from Phimore.

Matt Stainbrook

B

One point shy of second straight double double, Stainbrook looked intimidated by St. John’s length early, passing up potential shots inside. Still, the center gave his teammates some great perimeter looks, they just failed to convert. Stainbrook has a high basketball IQ, and that helped him contribute 10 rebounds and 3 blocks against a team that is athletic as any in the country.

James Farr

B-

Farr played 12 of his 14 minutes in the first half, where he scored 5 points to go with 4 rebounds. 2 fouls in his limited second half play may have been a reason Philmore and Stainbrook made up the front court duo for the majority of the second half.

Myles Davis

D

For the first time in his career, Davis has now gone two consecutive games without a 3-point field goal. He will always provide floor spacing, and the drought won’t likely last long.

Brandon Randoph

A

The freshman had a huge impact on the game in the first half, scoring 7 points, including a layup amongst the St. John’s shot blockers and a 3-pointer. Despite going scoreless in the second half, Randolph’s scoring spurt took pressure off the Musketeers when they were struggling to score early on.

Jalen Reynolds

B

Reynolds has the athleticism to match up with St. John’s frontcourt players, and contributed a pair of buckets. Despite only playing five minutes, Reynolds provided a spark.

Chris Mack

A

The drought at the start of the game wasn’t due to poor coaching; Xavier just simply missed shots they are capable of converting. Lack of success on offense did not deter from the defensive effort early. The Musketeers committed only nine turnovers, 3 of which were offensive fouls. St. John’s got very few clean looks, and many of their converted three pointers were shots that Mack likely would welcome, including a converted attempt by Rysheed Jordan, who entered the game 1-11 from behind the arc.

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