What happened: St. John's 78 - Xavier 70
In a game Xavier desperately needed to not lose, they came out and did just that. After opening the game 4-6 from behind the arc, they made just 3 of their next 16, allowing St. John's to get back into and then take over the game. The Musketeers had 38 points in the paint and 17 second-chance points, but they could never establish a habit of getting the ball inside and it not only cost them the game but put a serious dent in their at-large hopes.
With Chris Obekpa out, St. John's played with five smaller players for large portions of the game and Xavier was always a perimeter defender short. Sir'Dominic Pointer had 24 on 9-10/0-0/6-6 to lead the way, taking advantage of repeated matchups with Xavier's bigger men. D'Angelo Harrison has 18, Phil Greene IV got free for three big threes, and Jamal Branch had 11 on 5-7/1-1/0-0 shooting. Xavier's defense was not up to snuff today.
Matt Stainbrook led the way for Xavier today. He had 17/9/4 on 7-9/0-0/3-3 shooting and only one foul. He more or less held his own on defense, though he had the benefit of matching up on whoever was the Red Storm's worst shooter on the floor at the time. He was really outside of anything St. John's was able to stop today; the story of this game is in large part Xavier's inability to use Stainbrook's advantage on the inside.
One Musketeer fouled out, and it was obviously Jalen Reynolds. In the 19 minutes he got before that happened though, he went for 12/7/0 on 5-9/0-0/2-3 shooting and threw in 2 blocks for grins and giggles. If he could every stay on the floor for a full game, who knows what he'd be able to do. It's all speculation at this point.
Trevon Bluiett had 16/3/2 on 5-14/3-6/3-3 shooting. St. John's length bothered him a little bit in forcing his 2-8 from inside the arc, but he had a couple of looks roll the wrong way on him. All three of his boards were on the offensive end.
Dee shot 2-9/1-6/0-1 today. A few of those shots were at the end of the shot clock or when things got desperate late, but Xavier has to be able to find a better option than Dee having to force one up when everyone knows he's going to. For his part, shot selection has been a nightmare for much of this year. He's a smart enough player to know who on the floor has the best chance of scoring at any point in time, and all the evidence points to the idea that he's usually fifth on that list for Xavier. He did have 9 assists and only 2 turnovers.
Team defense is still the problem for X. If they can't turn you over, they have real trouble stopping you, and that was the case again today. St. John's only had 10 turnovers, including only 3 in the second half. Meanwhile they shot .518/.350/.813 and scored 1.147 points per possession. Once Xavier's three-point shooting went cold and the Muskies didn't pummel the ball inside, the writing was on the wall here because of how badly they defended. It's bubble watching time from here on out now, as Xavier will need help for other similarly positioned teams (like St. John's) if they want to earn an at-large bid.
Odds and ends:
-Brandon Randolph did not even warm up with the team today. Details to come if they are released.
-James Farr grabbed 4 boards in 7 minutes.
-JP Macura was 1-3 from deep and had 4 boards.
-Remy Abell had only 6 points on 2-7/1-3/1-2 shooting.
That's it from me. Stay tuned for all of our usual weekend coverage heading into the Crosstown Shootout.