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Snap Judgments: No. 6 Xavier at St. John’s (01.30.18)

Robert Cole/ALOST

 

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

NEW YORK — No matter what the conference records stated going into tonight, Xavier head coach Chris Mack knew what his Musketeers, ranked No. 6 in the country, were up against on the road against St. John’s. He and his team got what they bargained for, and almost became a victim of one of the biggest upsets in the Big East this season.

Trevon Bluiett led four Xavier players in double figures as the Musketeers won their 20th game of the season in squeaking out a 73-68 victory over the Red Storm, who now have started conference play 0-11. Many watching the game might have been shocked by the close margin of victory, which probably still is even closer than the final scoreline indicated, but Mack was impressed by St. John’s as they stood toe-to-toe with one of the teams on the shortlist to win a Big East regular-season championship.

“We’re fortunate to come away with a win,” said Mack after the game. “That might be the best 0-11 team I’ve ever seen anywhere in a conference. Period.”

Few teams with a poor conference record can boast talents like the Red Storm’s Shamorie Ponds, and the sophomore guard poured in 31 points as he kept St. John’s in the game almost singlehandedly. Down the stretch, however, Xavier made just enough plays to hold off the Red Storm’s final charge at a monumental upset.

The final three minutes saw the Red Storm cut Xavier’s lead to one on two occasions, only for the Musketeers to answer with layups from Kaiser Gates and Karem Kanter, the latter coming with 19 seconds remaining to give Xavier a 71-68 lead. After a Red Storm turnover, Bluiett hit two free throws with six seconds remaining to put the finishing touches on the Musketeers’ 20th 20-win season in the last 26 years.

Kanter and guard Quentin Goodin each had 13 points for Xavier, while shooting guard J.P. Macura had 11.

Three players accounted for 61 of the Red Storm’s 68 points tonight, led by Ponds’ 31; Michigan State transfer Marvin Clark II had 19 points and Bashir Ahmed had 12 for St. John’s.

“We’ve had a hard time having four or five guys click on the same night,” said Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin.

St. John’s takes a break from the gauntlet that has been Big East Conference play on Saturday, but still have to face a top-10 opponent as No. 4 Duke will pay a visit to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 3 at noon.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline and story is the photo gallery from Tuesday evening’s game, with all photos taken by our senior photographer, Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 15 pictures in total.

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