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Xavier holds on to defeat St. John’s 88-82: recap and takeaways

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Chris Mack is now Xavier’s winningest head coach.

Xavier  v Villanova
“I’m the best!”
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

St. John’s came into this game looking like a team on the verge of dissolving entirely, but they were rock solid in the early going. Xavier was blistering hot from three in the first half, and they needed every bit of it of to keep St. John’s at arm’s length. A 7-2 run capped by a three for Trevon Bluiett put Xavier ahead by 8 at the half and looking like they were about to step on the gas and pull away.

Instead, St. John’s came out of the half on fire. The Red Storm opened the half 11-11 from the floor and didn’t miss a field goal attempt until more than 9 minutes had come off the clock. That shooting had erased Xavier’s entire lead and put the visitors up 67-64 with 10 and change left on the clock.

Then the defense locked in, or St. John’s ran out of gas. The Johnnies just couldn’t get the ball to fall for 7:20, stuck on 67 points from Tariq Owens’s jumper at 9:24 to Shamorie Ponds’s three at the 2:04 mark. Xavier scored 15 points during that stretch, running the lead to 79-67.

Free throws and fouls followed. Xavier salted it away from the line and gave Coach Mack his historic 203rd win, making him the winningest head coach in program history.

Trevon is all the way back

Tre looked exactly like his old self tonight, coming out of the locker room drilling jumpers. Twice in the early going, he got post kick-outs and jarred threes from the wing with no hesitation. He had a couple of nice finishes around the rim, executed from the line, and generally was everything X needs him to be.

Kerem Kanter... goodness me

What can you say about the best Turkish-born player in Xavier history? He hit a three, rebounded like a tank, picked up an assist, didn’t turned the ball over, and was the dude carrying the team when Xavier was trying to avoid letting St. John’s from running away when they couldn’t miss. I almost don’t miss Brady Ernst.

There’s still work to be done

Winning is important, and Xavier achieved that tonight. Despite that, Coach Mack will have plenty to talk about in film study. That 11-11 stretch St. John’s went on will be the obvious focal point, but Xavier didn’t bathe themselves in glory in ball security and looked like grade schoolers trying to guard Justin Simon. If X hadn’t shot 14-26 from deep, this could have turned out differently.