St. John's Basketball

St. John’s slides further down bubble after loss to Xavier (Highlights)

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Ricky Keeler

The St. John’s Red Storm ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak after their 81-68 loss to Xavier. 

Ricky Keeler

Well, the St. John’s Red Storm picked the wrong time of year to play their worst basketball. On Saturday, they had a chance to clinch third place in the Big East and failed to do so as they lost to the Xavier Musketeers for the second time in over a week, 81-68.

The Red Storm end the season at 20-11 and 8-10 in the conference as they have now lost three games in a row.

With the loss to the Musketeers, the Red Storm finished the season seventh in the Big East and they will now have to play in the First Round of the conference tournament on Wednesday night.

They will host either Butler or DePaul at Madison Square Garden (9:30 p.m. ET, FS1).

Xavier did not have Najii Marshall for this game, but that did not stop them from once again dominating the paint. They won the rebounding edge over St. John’s. 38-24, and doubled them in the offensive rebound category, 10-5. In fact, all five Musketeers starters had at least six rebounds.

With Sedee Keita out for this game due to a suspension, that put a lot of pressure on freshman Josh Roberts to be the primary defender down low. Xavier took full advantage of that for most of the game. In fact, the Red Storm did not score a single bench point in this contest.

St. John's Basketball

The problem for St. John’s in this game was evident; they were unable to defend the perimeter despite playing a matchup zone. Xavier was 11-for-26 from behind the arc with five of those threes coming from Ryan Welage off the bench (19 points).

At times, St. John’s would play good defense for most of the shot clock only to see Xavier somehow find a way to get an open look from three.

On the Red Storm side, L.J. Figueroa led the way in scoring with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting and Shamorie Ponds had a double-double (19 points, 10 assists). However, Ponds only had seven points in the second half.

Also, Justin Simon (13 points) deserves credit for keeping St. John’s in the game at times in the second half with some key shots and even an emphatic baseline dunk:

At this point, St. John’s has to be squarely on the bubble. Since that win over Seton Hall, they have allowed at least 80 points in each of the last three games. That is startling for a team that usually finds a way to force turnovers and get transition points. On Saturday, they only forced nine turnovers for the game.

Now, the Red Storm head into Wednesday night facing a do-or-die situation for their season. A win keeps their NCAA Tournament hopes alive and gives them a third opportunity to beat Marquette on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET).

A loss would mean waiting till Selection Sunday and not feeling good about their chances at playing in March Madness. To say that there is a lot of pressure on the players and Chris Mullin‘s coaching staff going into Wednesday is a drastic understatement.

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