The dream of going on a magical run to the Big East championship ended with an 88-60 loss to Xavier on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
The Red Storm led 22-17 before Xavier went on a 14-2 run. The Musketeers led 33-29 at halftime and then dominated St. John’s in the second half.
The Red Storm saved their worst half of the season for last, being outscored 55-31 over the final 20 minutes.
There were no excuses after having an afternoon game following a night game. “The turnaround is what it is,” Chris
Mullin said. “It’s scheduled out and that’s what you get for coming in ninth.”
There were plenty of issues to point to after the fact. The 21 missed three-pointers. Xavier finishing with 12 more rebounds and 12 more assists. Xavier outscoring St. John’s in the paint 36-22. And Xavier scoring 22 points off turnovers as opposed to two for the Red Storm.
Trevon Bluiett led Xavier with 27 points while Kaiser Gates scored 16 and Kerem Kanter added 12. JP Macura played a solid all-around game with nine points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Marvin Clark II led St. John’s with 18 points. Shamorie Ponds scored 15 and Justin Simon added 14.
Xavier only turned the ball over seven times, not allowing fast break opportunities for the Red Storm. “St. John’s for us is simple in the fact that take care of the ball, which we didn’t do really well the first two games,” Chris Mack said. “I think we had, what, seven turnovers today. To do that on their floor, that was the biggest thing of keeping them out of transition with our turnovers and tough shots. And we did that. And I think that’s one of the reasons the outcome is what it was.”
St. John’s still hasn’t advanced to the Big East semifinals since 2000. Xavier has reached the semifinals in all five years of the reconfigured Big East.
Clark and Simon noted the importance of finishing in the top five of the conference next season.
It was a strange season for St. John’s. A 10-2 start in non-conference play, followed by an 11-game losing streak.
Then consecutive wins over Duke and Villanova. Wins against Marquette and DePaul put St. John’s back over .500 but they lost three of the final four regular season games. Like last season, they beat Georgetown and then lost to the
top seed in the conference tournament.
“I think it’s clear when we played unselfishly, played together, we’re a pretty good ball club,” Mullin said. “And when we didn’t, we struggled. A lot of times we had some close games that didn’t go our way, but I thought we fought through that and to finish up the way we did I thought was impressive after having that tough stretch in January.”
When asked what he learned this season, Clark said, “How you handle distractions and how you go about every day on and off the floor. I think that’s one of the biggest things. Like Coach said, consistency.”
If Ponds, Owens, Simon and Clark return in addition to some recruits the team has coming in, St. John’s will be poised to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the Coach Mullin era.