Media recap: St. John's 65, Xavier 53

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Well, let's look at what others are saying about the THUD St. John's seemed to land with after last night's 65-53 loss.

Keep in mind that the season isn't over - and I'm not talking about the NIT. There are chances to win, other bubble teams that will struggle, and the Big East Tournament to play. But the Johnnies could have had the inside track with a win last night... now, they need to win out their last two games (no easy feat) and win games in the NCAA Tournament against teams that have given them a great deal of trouble...

...All while knowing that Marquette, Georgetown and Providence will want to make the same surge into the NCAA Tournament.

Media recap

Rumble in the Garden Recap // St. John's vs Xavier final: bubble-popping disappointment reigns, Johnnies lose 65-53

At home, fighting a team battling for the same NCAA Tournament spot, St. John's fell flat, struggling to play cohesive basketball. It was not as aimless as some of the early games, but the final result was the same on offense.

The Johnnies took jump shots, struggled to get to the rim, and didn't convert when they got to the rim. The Xavier defense tracked back and kept the Red Storm from unleashing their devastating athleticism in transition.

Helped by [Jalen Reynolds], the Musketeers found focus. They ran patient, clock-killing plays to draw foul shots and layups. Xavier's last 17 points were off of layups, dunks, or free throws. In the last 7:19 (where the Musketeers were up 48-39), St. John's forced them to take only one shot attempt that wasn't at the rim or a free throw, a missed three-pointer.

NY Daily News // St. John’s fails to rise to occasion, losing critical Big East game to Xavier

The crowd that the Red Storm was going to need so much for a home-court advantage was a meager 6,707. The production from leading scorer D`Angelo Harrison was an anemic four points, including 1-for-11 shooting from the field. And the Johnnies as a whole failed to rise to the occasion and lost the critical Big East game to Xavier, 65-53. Coach Steve Lavin used words such as "subpar" and "disjointed"to describe the performance and added that no one "performed in a stellar manner." That was the kindest way to put things.

NY Post // St. John’s NCAA tourney hopes take hit after loss to Xavier

Reynolds, a freshman who entered the game averaging three points and 2.9 rebounds, led the Musketeers with 17 points and 16 rebounds, taking advantage of a St. John’s defense providing the resistance-level of the 1940 French Army. Xavier scored 36 points in the paint and shot 56 percent from the field in the first half.

After nine wins in 10 games, St. John’s has dropped two straight heading into Sunday’s game against DePaul. A win over the Blue Demons, who are near the bottom of the Big East standings, and at Marquette to finish the regular season are now just prerequisites, with a run to the finals of the Big East Tournament likely necessary, after falling to 3-9 against teams ranked in the Top 70 of the RPI.

CBS Sports // St. John's loss to Xavier dims NCAA tournament hopes

The Red Storm have had plenty of chances to improve their résumé for the NCAA tournament, and they continue to fall short.

Everything was going the Red Storm's way on paper. Xavier was coming off a 22-point loss at Georgetown, plus the Musketeers were only 2-5 on the road in the league. While Xavier had a better at-large résumé heading into the game, this was the opportunity St. John's needed to close the gap and prove it was a better team than the Xaviers, Providences and Georgetowns of the Big East bubble world.

And again, St. John's fell short of making the statement it needed to make, losing to the visiting Musketeers, 65-53. Once again, one step away....

The most alarming part, though, was that Reynolds played with more fire and passion than anyone on St. John's. Considering this was the Red Storm's big chance to make a bubble statement, that's just embarrassing.

NBC Sports College Basketball Talk // Xavier frustrates St. John’s in crucial resume game

This was an important game for both teams: St. John’s will now have to win out their remaining slate, which includes games against DePaul and Marquette, and reach at least the semifinals of the Big East tournament to get a bid for NCAAs (and even that prognostication might be too generous). What is more likely is that the Red Storm will crack the NIT field, a disappointing result for a team that faced such great expectations during the preseason.

ESPN NY // Xavier deals St. John's a major blow at MSG

"We’re a gap-oriented team," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "We don’t want to be out in passing lanes denying, we want to have defenders in gap situations where it’s tough to go one-on-one.

"We have big challenges on the floor when you play these guys, whether it’s [D'Angelo] Harrison, whether it’s Rysheed Jordan, who’s played great as of late. We really wanted to make sure that it was tough contested [2-pointers] and we didn’t get spread out defensively."

Newsday // Steve Lavin's NCAA express stalls

But the concern going forward has to be with the nature of the past two losses. Both Villanova and Xavier played magnificent defensive games that made D’Angelo Harrison work for every point and forced the Red Storm in general to settle for more jumpers instead of getting to the rim....

Not only did the Musketeers deprive St. John’s of the chance to run, but when they got into half-court defense, they packed inside to cut off room to pass and to drive. "We don’t want to dare anyone and give them an uncontested shot," Xavier coach Chris Mack said after his team basically did just that. "But that’s how we play. We defend gaps.

Cincinnati Enquirer // Notes from the win at St. John’s

TELLING STAT: St. John’s didn’t score a single fast-break basket. Coach Steve Lavin said it was indication of the team’s lack of defense, that it wasn’t getting the ball off the glass, and guard Phil Greene agreed.

"(Xavier) did what they wanted on their side. They had lay-ups and dunks," Greene said. "We had zero fast-break points and that’s where we get a lot of our offense. We didn’t get enough stops."

NY Post/ Mike Vaccaro // Loss means no margin of error for St. John’s

But that’s an example of just how fickle the NCAA fence can be in February. A the Johnnies were jousting with the Wildcats for 36 minutes Saturday, the narrative was practically viral: this is one of the hottest teams in the country, a dangerous team for anyone to face in March, one that’s practically daring the committee to leave it home. They were the sport’s darlings.

Then Ryan Arcidiacono made a 3-pointer, the Johnnies couldn’t grab a rebound, they accepted their attaboys and their get-em-next-times and their keep-your-head-ups … and came out flat as a Kansas prairie against Xavier.

SNY / ZagsBlog // St. John’s Faces Tough Road in Big East Tourney

If the Big East Tournament started today, St. John’s would be the No. 6 seed and would face a quarterfinal rematch with No. 3 Xavier, the same team that beat the Johnnies, 65-53, last night at Madison Square Garden.

If the Johnnies get past Xavier, they would likely get No. 2 Villanova in the semifinals, the same Villanova team that is 2-0 against St. John’s this season.

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