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St. John’s MBB Drops Regular Season Finale at Xavier, 81-68

Trailing by two with just over six minutes to play, the St. John’s men’s basketball team went without a field goal for the next 5:07 before falling 81-68 at Cintas Center on Saturday evening.

The Red Storm (20-11, 8-10 BIG EAST) will be the no. 7 seed in next week’s BIG EAST Tournament after closing the regular season with three-straight losses.  The Johnnies will play either DePaul or Butler at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the opening game of the tournament depending on the outcome on Saturday night’s contest between DePaul and Creighton.

Shamorie Ponds recorded his fourth career double-double, scoring 19 points and dishing out 10 assists.  The Brooklyn native, who passed Zendon Hamilton for sixth on the program’s all-time scoring list (1,814) in the loss, also grabbed four rebounds and registered a pair of steals.

LJ Figueroa led the way with 20 points for St. John’s, going 9-of-12 from the floor and 2-for-2 from three-point range in addition to pulling down five rebounds.

Justin Simon and Mustapha Heron also finished in double figures for St. John’s, posting 13 and 10 points, respectively.  Marvin Clark II collected a team-high eight boards and chipped in six points.

The Red Storm committed just four turnovers, a season-low.

Xavier (17-14, 9-9 BIG EAST) outrebounded St. John’s, 38-24, including a 10-5 edge on the offensive glass.  All 11 of the Musketeers’ second-chance points came in the first half.

St. John’s got off to a rough start offensively, missing its first four shots and watching Xavier jump out to an 8-0 lead in the early going.

Trailing 10-2, St. John’s rattled off eight straight to knot the score at 10 on a Simon free throw with just over six minutes gone in the contest.

The two teams traded buckets over the next few minutes before Xavier opened a six-point lead, 25-19, on a Ryan Wellage jumper with a touch under eight minutes to play in the period.  St. John’s responded with back-to-back triples, as Figueroa and Clark found the bottom of the bucket from distance and tied the game at 25.

St. John’s took its first and only lead of the contest, 31-30, when Ponds flicked away a Musketeer pass and found a streaking Figueroa for the slam, but Xavier quickly regained its edge following consecutive treys from Wellage.

Trailing 38-33 at the intermission, St. John’s rattled off the second stanza’s first four points to pull within one on a Simon baseline slam with less than 90 seconds gone in the period.

Down two, 45-43, a few minutes later, the Johnnies saw Xavier rattle off a 9-2 spurt and open its largest lead of the game at that point, 54-45, with 12 minutes to play.

The Red Storm ripped off a 12-5 run to claw back within two, 59-57, on a Figueroa triple with 6:15 to play, but Xavier held St. John’s without a field goal for the next five-plus minutes and outscored the Johnnies, 22-11, the rest of the way.

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