|Justin Simon. @StJohnsBBall.|
The nightmare start to Big East Conference play for St. John's continued Wednesday night with an 88-82 loss to #11-ranked Xavier on the road.
St. John's Big East record is now an unthinkable 0-7 and their
overall record is one game above .500, at 10-9.
Xavier led 42-34 at halftime, and maintained that lead to start to second half, with a J.P. Macura three-pointer making it 57-51 at the 14:30 mark.
St. John's responded with a 10-2 run, with Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon getting a couple baskets each, and capped by a Shamorie Ponds jumper at the 11:50 mark to give them a 61-59 lead.
A Tariq Owens layup made it 67-64 St. John's with 9:24 left, and that was the last point St. John's would score for the next seven minutes and 20 seconds.
Over that span, Xavier went on a 15-0 run and the streak was snapped when Ponds his a three with 2:04 left that made it 79-70 Xavier. St. John's never got closer than six points, a Simon three with 11 seconds left that made it 88-82, which was the final.
Xavier, who improved to 5-2 in the Big East and 17-3 overall, was led by Trevon Bluiett, who had 23 points on 8-15 from the field and 5-11 from behind the arc, with six rebounds and three assists.
Kerem Kanter, the brother of the Knicks center Enes Kanter, had 22 points on a superb 8-10 from the field, including a three, with 13 rebounds, a block and an assist.
St. John's was led by Justin Simon, who had 28 points on 12-16 from the field and 2-2 on threes, and narrowly missed having a double-double as he snared nine rebounds, along with six assists.
Shamorie Ponds took a step back from his big game Saturday night against Villanova when he poured in 37 points. On Wednesday night at Xavier, he had 18 points on a tough shooting night of 6-20 from the field and 2-6 on threes, with four assists, a rebound, and a steal.
Marvin Clark II had 15 points on 6-10 shooting and 3-6 from behind the arc, with two assists and one rebound.
St. John's had one of their best shooting nights as a team, as they shot an even 50 percent (32-64) from the field, and 45.8 percent from three, or 11-24.
St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin said of whether 82 points might have been enough for a win, “It’s been a tough stretch for us. We’ve actually played some pretty good basketball and have not gotten a win for it, but we just have to keep plugging away. I’m proud of my guys’ performance. It’s really just a matter of sticking with it, hanging tough, staying together, and I’m pretty confident we will turn.”
Mullin said of if St. John’s possibly finding its way without Marcus LoVett, “I’m pretty transparent and evaluate how we play. For the most part, we played pretty well. In conference we haven’t gotten a win yet, but five of the seven games we played pretty good basketball. We have to be honest with that, we were trying to clean things up to help us out for the next game, but I thought tonight was a hell of a game. [Xavier] played great too. Look at their shooting numbers, it was a pretty phenomenal game, and they came out on top. Congratulations to Chris Mack too for his record-breaking win. I actually knew Pete Gillen very well, he coached high school in my neighborhood back in the day. Congratulations.”
Mullin said of where the program goes from here, “Again, its the oldest cliché in the book, but we go one day at a time. We really do. It’s really handy when you get in this predicament, but if you live that way it’s not a cliché. Like I said, good performance, but not good enough. We will stay positive, keep fighting, and it’ll turn.”
On Justin Simon’s night, Mullin said, “I think it was just his whole approach. He was aggressive. He made a mistake here-and-there, but he also did not let it affect his next decision. Justin’s a very talented kid, and I was hard on him about just being aggressive. I’m not worried about him, or any of my guys, making mistakes. We practice, we do scouting reports, and all of that to prepare, but in the end I want them to go play and be aggressive. Each and every guy. [Simon] had a phenomenal game, but I really think it was his approach. He just came out in attack mode, and stayed there all night.”
Mullin said of coaching against Chris Mack, who became Xavier's winningest coach ever with this win, “I think they are one of the most aggressive teams that we play. Both on the offensive end and defensive end. They’re very physical and aggressive. I think they play with confidence. I like their style of play. I like their players. They play kind of a throwback style, very aggressive. I think they have a great team and he’s a great coach.”
Simon said of his career night, “To me, that doesn’t mean much to me personally. I was just trying to do everything I could for my team to get the win. We couldn’t quite do that. Xavier is a good team. Credit to them, they played really well tonight. Scoring that many points is not really my game, but whatever my team needs me to do is what I’ll do.”
On whether the team needed him to score, Simon said, “Coach [Mullin] told me to be aggressive, don’t worry about the mistakes I make, just to play hard, have fun out there, and I feel like I was doing that.”