This afternoon, St. John’s travels to Cincinnati to meet with the surging Xavier Musketeers, just off of a thriller overtime win against Providence.
The Musketeers are at home, and tied for first in the Big East under Sean Miller. St. John’s is in eighth place and struggling to find a rhythm on the floor, with mistakes and poor defensive stretches compounding the already-existing problems on the team.
The Red Storm are fearsome when they are locked in and are forcing miscues. They are strong in transition. Can the Red Storm recapture some of the early-season magic this afternoon?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-8, 4-7 Big East) vs Xavier Musketeers (18-5, 10-2 Big East)
When: Saturday, February 4, 2023, 5:00 PM
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
Odds: Xavier, -9
The Musketeers have been a strong, focused squad with grit and fortitude. They play a core of seven players, especially with Zach Freemantle out for a month. Freemantle, the versatile center, is recovering from an injury, but the Musketeers have depth. Jerome Hunter and Desmond Claude have stepped in for Freemantle’s absence. Both are a little more limited than Freemantle, but filled in admirable with heavy minutes.
The Musketeers continue to be a team that plays at a fast pace, with a high assist rate. They shoot threes very well, but do not shoot from outside a lot; still, all five players on the court are a threat from outside the arc.
In the previous game, St. John’s gave up a 16-0 run, but made a run late to keep the game close and give a challenge to the Musketeers. Xavier has been much better at home, however, and the Cintas Center is a fearsome home environment. Like in the game against Creighton, St. John’s has to find not just uncommon shooting, but poise and defense to pull off the upset.
Keys to the Game
Play with nothing to lose. St. John’s has had strong performance when they are able to get out and run and play with abandon behind Posh Alexander.
Make shots. Xavier has scored at least 70 points in every game this season, and usually hits the 80s. The Johnnies are going to need to find points from the line and points from beyond the arc — along wiith contributions from Joel Soriano.
Slow them down. Slowing down opponents is not in St. John’s DNA, but this is a game where causing confusion and slower ball movement would be very helpful for the Red Storm’s cause.
St. John’s takes one on the chin in Cincy, 92-68.