It's fitting that Xavier ended up winning this one by seven, because that's the margin to which the Musketeers kept pushing it before allowing St. John's back into the game. Xavier led 36-29 with 1:28 left in the first half before allowing St. John's to close the half on a 7-2 run. Xavier went up 61-54 with 10:46 to play, but St. John's went on a quick 5-0 run. Xavier pushed it back out to 68-61 before the teams alternated two-point buckets the next three times down. Then the teams swapped threes. Then they did so again.
The lead hovered within a possession of the seven-point mark from 7:45 to the end of the game as the teams basically took turns scoring. Xavier could never quite pull away and St. John's could never quite climb all the way back in. To say that it was frustrating to watch would be a little bit of an understatement.
The guy who wouldn't let this one get away for Xavier was Myles Davis. He went for 16/3/5 with just 1 turnover on 4-7/3-5/5-6 shooting after going into halftime with zero points to his name. Every time the Muskies needed a bucket, he got them one. Only missing his first free throw put a blemish in a really nice line for Xavier's most senior junior, who debuted a clean-shaven look tonight.
Trevon Bluiett had a weird game. On the one hand, his line read 15/13/2, which is pretty danged impressive. On the other hand, he shot 4-14/2-5/5-6. You'll take 40% shooting from deep, but a 2-9 mark from inside the arc is not ideal in any respect. It's hard to want Trevon to stop shooting since the offense flows through him so often, but that's a lot of empty possessions going up.
Speaking of sub-optimal shooting lines, Jalen Reynolds didn't bathe himself in glory in shooting 4-6/0-0/1-8 en route to 9/4/2 with 2 blocks and a turnover. Jalen battled back from early foul trouble that had him carrying two just 40 seconds into the game; if he could have executed a bit better from the line, we'd possibly be talking about how he's coming on in the latter part of the season again this year. His performance from the line was a big part of Xavier's 27-40 performance from the stripe as a team. If the Musketeers connect on a few more of those freebies, we'd all feel better about the way this game went.
JP and Larry once again influenced the game's energy level when they came off the bench. Only the most partisan LAJ fan would describe his 5/2/1 line on 1-2/0-0/3-4 shooting as anything other than serviceable, but that's all Xavier needed out of him. He gave the team 13 minutes as a backup point guard and brought his trademarks of defensive intensity, one inexplicable turnover, and a split of his first 2 FT to the floor once again.
Macura more or less stole this one at times for Xavier. His line of 12/7/2 included 5 offensive rebounds. Two of those came on the same possession, meaning that he saved four possessions for Xavier, which the Muskies ended up turning into nine points. The dude is just maniacal going to the glass, and his ability to keep the ball alive was monstrous as Xavier fought off St. John's. If they don't get those nine points - the last of which came when the man himself drilled a three - the Muskies are in a world of hurt down the stretch.
Big Game James wasn't moving well after leaving the DePaul game with a hamstring problem, but he still managed to go for 11/7/1 with 2 steals and a block on 4-6/0-0/3-4 shooting. He was joined in double figures by Edmond Sumner, who shot 4-7/0-1/2-4 and went for 10/3/4 with 3 steals and a block. Neither of those guys looked necessarily at his best, but neither pressed to get into the game and both ended up being rewarded with buckets within the flow of the action.
There was a lot not to like about this game, but one thing Xavier did very well was rebound. They pulled down 49 total boards and outrebounded the Johnnies to the tune of a 75% to 59% edge in DReb% and a 41% to 25% advantage in OReb% (though you probably could have done the math on that last bit yourself). X ended the game with a 22-9 advantage in second-chance points. When the execution isn't as crisp as you'd like, it's great to see the team have the scrappiness to with the game down in the mud.
Brad will be online tomorrow morning with your Water Cooler Talking Points and then we'll roll right into our Marquette coverage. Drive safely, Xavier fans.