Nothing defined a "bubble game" more in the Big East Conference this season than Monday night's matchup at the World's Most Famous Arena between St. John's and Xavier.
And yet again, Sir'Dominic Pointer and St. John's answered the calling card, on one day of rest, with a monumental 58 to 57 victory and a sweep of a hungry Xavier team.
Pointer scored 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds while D'Angelo Harrison added 20 points. Rysheed Jordan, 10 points and zero turnovers, played another tremendous game along with Chris Obekpa, 4 points and 4 blocks, who was powerful in the paint.
Phil Greene struggled on Monday night, shooting just 2 for 8 from the field and only scoring 5 points but did hit a critical three late in the game.
Trevon Bluitt, 17 points and 7 boards, struggled during the opening half but attacked the basket in the second half to get to the free throw line. Big man, Matt Stainbrook, added 6 points and 10 boards for Xavier.
In the first four minutes, the Johnnies played with no emotion and energy and Xavier took advantage by taking an 11 to 0 lead.
That momentum came to a halt when Obekpa entered the game as the urgency changed and the Red Storm started dominating paint. Pointer and Obekpa used their athleticism and length to cause havoc against Stainbrook, Jalen Reynolds and James Farr while the guards at the top of the zone created multiple deflections.
The strong defensive effort helped St. John's do what they do best: Get out in transition. Pointer, who has been a force this season when the team gets out and running, was the man leading the charge. That led to a first half, fast break clinic that Xavier couldn't counter.
In the opening half, the Johnnies forced 15 Musketeers turnovers (scored 14 points off those turnovers), had nine steals, and six blocks. Xavier struggled to execute and that left the highest scoring team in the Big East with their lowest scoring half of the season, 20 points.
But the domination was wiped away when both teams stepped on the court following the break.
The Musketeers had another quick start as they erased an eight-point halftime deficit with strong ball movement and ball control against the Johnnies' stingy guards.
Lavin's team also kept Xavier in the game due to poor free throw shooting, 40 percent. They entered the bonus with 11:20 remaining but couldn't buy points from the charity strike, missing six straight.
With the shot clock turned off and the game on the line, Harrison was back tipped and the Musketeers took over.
Myles Davis, who has proved to be a big shot maker, missed the game winning shot at the buzzer. Obekpa fought with Stainbrook for the rebound and the Johnnies prevailed.
The Johnnies escaped a thriller, relying on timely shooting, 44 percent from the field, and the lift from the home crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams were red-hot entering this match-up but the will to make the NCAA Tournament seems to be setting in for the Red Storm. These seniors desperately want to enter the field and then from there they realize anything can happen.
Next up for the Johnnies will be another interesting match-up against the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday at noon at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas shut down Harrison and ran St. John's out of the gym in their recent meeting at the Verizon Center.