GAME NOTES: The St. John's Red Storm will begin their final homestand of the season on Tuesday night, as they welcome the Xavier Musketeers to Madison Square Garden for a Big East Conference bout.
Xavier is a stellar 18-9 overall this season but has gone just 3-5 on the road, which includes losses in two straight road tilts. The Musketeers most recently fell on the wrong end of a 74-52 decision at Georgetown on Saturday to drop to 8-6 in the Big East.
St. John's had been red-hot coming into its latest contest with six straight victories, but while it fought hard at nationally-ranked Villanova on Saturday, it ultimately lost, 57-54. The Red Storm are now 18-10 overall and 8-7 in league action, and they played especially well on their home floor (13-3).
The teams met in the Big East opener back on Dec. 31, with Xavier winning at home, 70-60. St. John's won the only previous meeting in the all-time series in 1981.
The Musketeers were never a factor in their latest matchup, as they fell behind by 16 at the half to Georgetown over the weekend before eventually losing by 22. They were outshot from the field, 52.1 percent to 42.1 percent, and lost both the rebounding (26-21) and turnover (11-3) battles. Semaj Christon was nearly flawless despite the loss, shooting 5-of-5 from the field and 7-of-9 at the free-throw line for 18 points, while Justin Martin and Matt Stainbrook poured in 13 and 12 points, respectively.
On the season, Xavier boasts an impressive offensive attack, shooting a lofty 47.6 percent from the field for 72.8 ppg, and its defensive presence (.420, 67.4 ppg) has been strong enough to support it. Christon scores 16.5 ppg and is very efficient from the floor (.503), but that success has not translated to the free-throw line (.660). Stainbrook is an anchor in the frontcourt with 11.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg and more than a block per outing, while Martin rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.4 ppg.
The Red Storm trailed for the majority of their latest game, but while they climbed back to tie the score at 50 with five minutes to play, Villanova promptly ran off four straight points to put the contest away. The squad played impressive defense, holding Villanova to less than 40 percent field goal shooting, but it could not take advantage with its tries from the floor (.322). D'Angelo Harrison put up 15 points to lead the way, Rysheed Jordan scored 13 points and JaKarr Sampson tallied a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Similar to Xavier, St. John's has been impressive on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 44.9 percent from the field for 72.7 ppg, while allowing 66.0 ppg on just 40.3 percent shooting, and it sports positive margins both in terms of rebounding (+0.2) and turnovers (+2.8). Harrison shoots a mere 38.6 percent from the field but has knocked down 156-of-179 at the foul line (.872) and posts a team-best 17.8 ppg. Sampson (12.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Jordan (8.9 ppg) are regular contributors as well.
Although Xavier got the best of St. John's in the first meeting this season, expect the Red Storm to return to the favor in this one against a Musketeers squad that has been shaky on the road.
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