In a battle of two teams that feature strong backcourt play, it would be the experienced guards of the Musketeers that would reign victorious over the young guns of the Red Storm. Xavier grabbed the lead from opening tip and never gave it away to the Johnnies, going on to win 82-77. Regardless, St. John’s did not go down without a fight.
"Definitely, thought back,” St. John’s freshman guard Shamorie Ponds said. "We should have started the first half the way we closed the game."
After falling behind by 15, eventually the Red Storm seemed to have been making a comeback. They would go on an 8-0 run to make it 68-66 with 4:16 remaining in the game, but the Musketeers were able to put out the flames and pull away coming down the stretch.
Xavier went on a scoring spurt to pull away and lead by was much as eight, holding a 78-70 edge with 2:03 left in the game. St. John’s would pull as close as three, but by then, it was too late.
"Second half, we let up,” Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett said. "That’s been a problem we’ve had all season. We let up the second half and we take the foot off the gas. This time around, we played like we didn’t have the lead.”
Bluiett led the way for the Musketeers, finishing with a double-double, posting 21 points and 10 rebounds. Edmond Sumner scored 17 points and dished out seven assists, but went down midway through the second half with an injury.
In his place, Xavier went to Quentin Goodin, who enjoyed a career day. The freshman point guard scored 16 points off of a 4-of-5 shooting performance.
“I don’t know how many freshman point guards who can take that pressure, flip it and respond to it,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “I am really happy for Quentin in terms of his ability to step up on a big stage. Any time you can win on the road, in this league, consider yourself lucky.”
A feisty Xavier defensive effort restricted St. John’s to shooting just 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) from deep.
Ponds paced the Red Storm with a game-high 23 points. Marcus LoVett and Bashir Ahmed scored 11 points each.
Three takeaways from the game:
Burned on the Boards
Despite boasting a bigger lineup than Xavier, St. John’s continued its trend of struggling on the glass. The Musketeers had a 45-26 rebounding advantage over the Red Storm. This was key in helping Xavier pull away as it limited the Johnnies’ second chance opportunities. But on the other end, the Musketeers were able to get a number of offensive rebounds to keep their possessions alive. They never truly capitalized, only scoring nine second chance points. However, allowing 17 offensive boards is cause for concern. Xavier didn’t punish St. John’s for giving up those boards, but another team might.
"We gave up all those offensive rebounds and still cut it to three,” Mullin said. "There were a lot of times we could have got really discouraged but I thought we kept playing, hung around but ultimately, some of those rebounds came back to haunt us... Those extra possessions, whether they score or not—they maintain possession and they kill your runs."
So far, St. John’s has been outrebounded in six of their 13 losses this season.
"I believe we really need to be better,” Ponds said. “It feels like every game we get outrebounded on the boards. Collectively, as a group, 1-5, we have to be better at rebounding the ball.”
Edmond Sumner Goes Down
Redshirt sophomore sensation Edmond Sumner went down with an apparent knee injury. Sumner drove inside and finished with a tough layup in traffic. He was fouled on the play, making it 68-56 with 6:01 remaining in the game and was unable to attempt the free throw and checked out of the game. Sumner has thrived as the team’s primary ball handler. This season, he averaged 14.9 points per game and 4.9 assists per game.
Per Xavier head coach Chris Mack, no information is available on Sumner’s injury at this time, and the team hopes to know more after a MRI is conducted on Monday. In the mean time, it appears Goodin will have to accept the role of as the team’s primary point guard.
In a few instances where St. John’s was down by two, they had a couple of opportunities to tie the game up at the line. Unfortunately for the Johnnies, making only one or walking away empty-handed did them no favors in taking down the Musketeers.
The Red Storm missed seven of their second half free throws in the final 10 minutes of the game, and it seemed like each miss was at the worst moment possible.
"It’s just a missed shot,” LoVett said. "Everyone misses a free throw, it was just at that time. It’s a part of the game.”
It hindered the Johnnies’ momentum in the same manner giving away offensive rebounds did. As for Xavier, they were able to hang on and take care of business down the stretch and avoid the upset bug, granting a much needed victory after entering Sunday’s game winning only one of the last five games.