St. John’s lost the battle with Xavier, the battle on the glass, and the battle with composure. This is the way the last home game ends for St. John’s, not with a bang, but with a frustrated whimper, losing to Xavier 84-73.
The Red Storm fall to 8-8 in conference and 20-9 overall, while Xavier improves to 8-8 in conference and 16-13 overall, taking over third place in the conference from St. John’s.
In the first half, Xavier exposed St. John’s weakness —interior play — and took away St. John’s strength — attacking against man defense.
With Mustapha Heron out for the second straight game with a knee injury, Sedee Keita started to keep Xavier off the boards.
The lineup mattered little to the Musketeers; the visitors from Cincinnati crashed the boards and scored second chance points. They started hot, ripping the nets with threes and getting to the rim in their 13-3 run, and got to the tim with ease in a 9-0 run.
Defensively, Xavier’s 1-3-1 zone took St. John’s out of its rhythm for long stretches. The zone regularly put St. John’s in late shot clock situations and often resulted in contested midrange jumpers.
Xavier’s zone also prevented the Red Storm from getting to the basket than it did to protect the rim once St. John’s got there. The Red Storm shot 4/7 on layups and converted its only dunk. However, St. John’s failed to attempt a free throw in the half.
The Musketeers kept pace with St. John’s in transition. But, most importantly, they forced Shamorie Ponds into a facilitator role. While Ponds took what the defense gave him by dishing out 5 assists, he also only had two points (1/5 FG, 0/1 3PT) at the break.
With Xavier’s porous defense at the rim, the Red Storm offense appeared to have a simple agenda in the second half: get to the cup.
St. John’s, and particularly Josh Roberts (career-high nine points), did a quality job at getting to the rim early in the second half. The team went 8/15 at the rim, and did so with only one second half turnover.
However, Xavier kept pace offensively, keeping their cushion. Not only were the Musketeers efficient, shooting 11 of 19 from the field, converting their 7 second half offensive rebounds into 13 second chance points, but they also regularly forced their way to free throw line with 15 attempts in the half.
As the game began slipping away, the frustration began to mount for the Red Storm, with Bryan Trimble, Jr., Shamorie Ponds and Coach Chris Mullin all picking up technical fouls late in the game.
All in all, the more composed Xavier Musketeers methodically executed its way into a victory, 84-73, with Naji Marshall reaching a new career high in points (31).
St. John’s Red Storm
LJ Figueroa: 23 points (10/16 FG, 1/5 3PT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover
Shamorie Ponds: 13 points (5/16 FG, 2/6 3PT), 6 assists, 1 turnover
Marvin Clark II: 11 points (4/11 FG, 3/8 3PT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover
Naji Marshall: 31 points (8/19 FG, 5/12 3PT, 10/12 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 turnovers
Quentin Goodin: 13 points (4/8 FG, 2/5 3PT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers