A competitive first half gave way to second half struggles and missed opportunities, as the Red Storm fell 75-67 to the Xavier Musketeers in Cincinnati this evening.
The first game of a two-game road swing for Mike Anderson’s St. John’s found the road not as inviting as their home and neutral arenas.
The Red Storm was disruptive early on, flummoxing the Musketeers into self-inflicted turnovers — a traveling call here, a pass well behind a teammate there. The Cintas Center fans rained a drizzle of boo birds on their Musketeers at an early break.
But Xavier wing Naji Marshall, who has torched the Red Storm in the past, kept Xavier’s heads up with the help of shots from Paul Scruggs and freshman KyKy Tandy, playing heavy minutes as Quentin Goodin struggled with foul trouble.
The Musketeers had 13 turnovers (34% of their possessions) in the half, but 15 points from Marshall kept the Musketeers in the lead, 34-32. The Johnnies had eight points from Marcellus Earlington, but were also 0/9 from beyond the arc.
After that half, too close for comfort for the home team, one where St. John’s unnerved the Musketeers, Xavier composed themselves and took advantage of St. John’s mistakes.
The Red Storm compounded their shooting problems by missing Xavier shooters on the wings on a number of possessions in the second half, starting with a wide-open trey from Paul Scruggs, and missing the dunk machine Tyrique Jones inside on transition.
The Musketeers also turned to freshman KyKy Tandy and Dontarius Jones. Tandy released a few threes wide open in transition, as the Red Storm struggled to communicate/ cover on defense.
The Johnnies lost the plot once the Musketeers dedicated themselves to keeping a player between St. John’s players and the basket. The Red Storm fell behind by as much as 13 points in the second half, shooting 12/36 from the floor in the second half; the Johnnies shot 1/16 overall from beyond the arc. The 17/28 free throw shooting (61%) did not help, of course.
LJ Figueroa led the team with 17 points, 11 in the second half. Marcellus Earlington had 12 points and 6 total rebounds; Mustapha Heron had 11 in his return from injury.
For Xavier, Naji Marshall had 20 points.; Paul Scruggs had 14 and KyKy Tandy (4/6 from beyond the arc) and Tyrique Jones had 12 apiece.
St. John’s faces the Georgetown Hoyas next on Wednesday at 6:30 PM in DC. The Hoyas are also 0-2 in the Big East.