NEW YORK (AP) — When it was over, Xavier coach Chris Mack breathed a sigh of relief.
He and his staff got the tough, grinding game they expected, and now the sixth-ranked Musketeers don’t have to face Big East rival St. John’s again this regular season.
“We’re fortunate to come away with a win,” Mack said after Xavier’s 73-68 victory over St. John’s on Tuesday night in New York. “That might be the best 0-11 team I’ve ever seen anywhere in a conference. Period.”
Trevon Bluiett was one of four players in double-figure scoring for the Musketeers (20-3, 8-2 Big East). Bluiett led Xavier with 14 points. Kerem Kanter and Quentin Goodin each had 13 points, and J.P. Macura added 11.
“We didn’t play particularly well,” Mack said. “We didn’t play very well on offense.”
Despite a 31-point performance from Shamorie Ponds, the Red Storm (10-13, 0-11) dropped their 11th straight. Marvin Clark II added 19 points, and Bashir Ahmed had 12.
“We had three guys going,” said coach Chris Mullin, who added “our margin of error is pretty low. (We’ve) had a hard time having four or five guys click on the same night. ”
In the final 2:29, Bluiett made four free throws, and Kanter and Kasier Gates each converted layups. Kanter was aided by a defensive goaltending call on Tariq Owens, which led Mullin to complain to senior associate commissioner Stu Jackson after the game.
Mullin said he did not get an explanation from Jackson.
St. John’s committed other errors which aided Xavier’s cause, such as Ahmed taking a shot clock violation and shoving Bluiett on the ensuing possession. Bluiett made both free throws.
A few minutes earlier, Amar Alibegovic fouled out attempting to grab an offensive rebound of Clark’s missed 3.
“It’s exactly what we’re dealing with,” Mullin said. “That’s where we are.”
The Musketeers went into halftime leading 37-32. After falling behind 14-8 at the first media timeout, Xavier outscored St. John’s 29-18 for the remainder of the half.
St. John’s opened the second half with a 13-6 run spanning the first 4:25 to take 45-43 lead.
Xavier: Xavier has 20 wins with seven games remaining in conference play. Xavier has won at least 20 games in five straight seasons. Dating to 1992-93, Xavier has won 20 or more games 23 times.
St. John’s: Mullin’s team hoped to return to national prominence this year, but after winning 10 of 12 to open the season, the Red Storm have collapsed in Big East play. St. John’s has eight games left this season, seven in conference and a national televised game Saturday against No. 4 Duke.
Ponds scored his 1,000th career point on a driving layup midway through the second half. Ponds is the 10th player in program history to score 1,000 points in his freshman and sophomore years.
Xavier: The No. 6 Musketeers are the highest ranked team to play the Red Storm at Carnesecca Arena since Feb. 16, 1980, against then No. 2 Syracuse. Louis Orr had 29 points and 17 rebounds for the Orange in their 72-71 win.
St. John’s: Along with having lost 11 straight games, St. John’s has dropped five in a row, seven of nine since 2013-14, and seven of 10 overall to Xavier.