CINCINNATI — Xavier got back on track in a big way on Saturday afternoon with a rout of Creighton. Meanwhile, the struggles continued for St. John’s, which has lost six straight.
It will be a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions when the Musketeers (16-3, 4-2 Big East) and Red Storm (10-8, 0-6 Big East) play Wednesday night at Cintas Center, where XU is 12-0 this season.
There were high hopes for St. John’s, which began the season 10-2 but has since fallen on hard times. A season-ending injury to sophomore guard Marcus LoVett, who was averaging 15 points, hasn’t helped.
“I’m not concerned about predictions and expectations,” Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin told the New York Post last week. “The only thing that’s going to distract us or keep us down is a negative mindset. We just have to keep competing and keep working hard. Things will turn for us.”
Not even 37 points from Shamorie Ponds could get St. John’s over the hump in a 78-71 loss to top-ranked Villanova on Saturday. It will take another Herculean effort by the sophomore for the Red Storm to snap their four-game losing streak to Xavier.
Musketeers coach Chris Mack said the loss of LoVett for the season was a big blow for an SJU offense just beginning to gel.
“They’re a team that’s trying to figure out their offensive identity here in conference play thinking, they were probably getting him back,” Mack said.
The 11th-ranked Musketeers ended a two-game skid with a convincing 92-70 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday. Highlighting that win was the return to form of Trevon Bluiett, who scored 24 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. XU’s offense was efficient throughout with 22 assists on 34 made field goals.
Xavier leads the all-time series with St. John’s 6-3, including four straight wins. The Musketeers have won six of eight meetings since the schools have been members of the Big East.
Mullin was a freshman guard when the teams met for the first time, a 75-55 victory for SJU in the 1981 Lapchick Memorial Tournament.
The Musketeers have gotten a boost lately from graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, who is averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds over his past three games, and freshman guard Naji Marshall, who was named Big East Freshman of the Week after averaging 11.5 points in two games.
Beating Xavier could prove to be a tall order for St. John’s, which took ‘Nova to the wire before falling short on Saturday.
“We’re in a rut right now,” Red Storm forward Marvin Clark II said, according to the New York Post. “We just gotta figure out how to knock the door down. I feel like once we get that first win, we’ll taste blood and I feel like we’ll go on a run.”
Mack, in his ninth season, is on the verge of a coaching milestone. With a win on Wednesday night, he will eclipse Pete Gillen to become the all-time coaching wins leader at Xavier with 203.