Despite a hard fought game, St. John’s had too much going against them in their 82-77 loss to Xavier. From foul trouble to rebounding, the Red Storm were lucky to be within reach for most of the game.
Coming into the game, St. John’s knew they would have their hands full dealing with the height of Xavier. This was especially a concern with Xavier’s backcourt and it showed in the first possession of the game as Edmond Sumner backed Marcus LoVett down for a hook shot.
Xavier won the battle of the backcourts as St. John’s was unable to contain the versatile play of Sumner, who finished with 17 points. Trevon Bluiett had 21 for the Musketeers, a team-high. Marcus LoVett had a quiet game with 11 points, far too little for St. John’s to compete consistently. Ponds had a game-high 23 on 6-for-14 shooting and his struggles came mostly from deep.
Ponds and the Red Storm settled for too many poor threes and didn’t make a good percentage of them. They shot 5-for-23 from three for just 22%. In addition to their poor shooting, Xavier’s success in the paint (34 to 26 edge) allowed the Musketeers to get going from deep.
Among St. John’s other issues was foul trouble. Kassoum Yakwe, Bashir Ahmed and Tariq Owens were all in foul trouble at certain points in the game. The referees were very picky with their calls and did let the players do much early on. However, the call did not dictate this game.
Xavier out-rebounded St. John’s 45-26 overall and—more importantly—17-6 on the offensive glass. Despite phenomenal defense for certain possessions, often including spectacular blocks around the rim, securing the defensive rebound was a major issue for the team.
St. John’s made an impressive run late in the second half, energized by LoVett’s offense and Owens’ rim protection. An 8-0 run by the Red Storm trimmed the Xavier lead to just 4 with just five minutes left in the game and Sumner out of the game due to injury.
However, Xavier had established a solid lead and refused to go away. Despite the offensive spurts, St. John’s inability to string together enough stops and make crucial free throws down the stretch kept them from getting to .500 in Big East play. Bashir Ahmed had 11 points in the contest.
St. John’s drops to 4-6 in Big East play, 10-13 overall. They host Marquette on Feb. 1st, before visiting the defending national champions three days later.