Fresh off a victory over Providence on Wednesday in Queens, the St. John’s men’s basketball team will look to sweep a two-game homestand when the Johnnies welcome Xavier to Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Tip-off between the Red Storm and the Musketeers is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on FS1 and 970 AM WNYM. Brian Custer and Jim Spanarkel will have the television call while John Minko and Brandon Tierney will narrate the action on the Red Storm Sports Network broadcast from Learfield IMG College. That call of the game can also be found on TuneIn and Sirius XM.
St. John’s (14-11, 3-9 BIG EAST) will look to pick up its second straight win and a crucial victory in the BIG EAST standings when it hosts Xavier (16-9, 5-7 BIG EAST) at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” on Monday. The Musketeers currently sit tied for seventh place in the BIG EAST standings, two games clear of St. John’s in ninth. As of Sunday, all 10 BIG EAST teams rank in the top 71 of the NET with five squads in the top 21. Xavier checks in at no. 41 while the Johnnies jumped 11 spots to no. 67 following their win over Providence on Wednesday. In the Feb. 11 edition of the Associated Press Top 25, the BIG EAST placed five teams in the poll, the highest total of any conference in the country.
The Red Storm picked up its third BIG EAST win of the season on Wednesday as a result of high pressure defense and efficient shooting on the offensive end of the floor. After forcing a season-low eight turnovers in a loss at Creighton on Feb. 8, the Johnnies turned 23 Providence turnovers into 22 points during their 80-69 victory. Those 23 turnovers forced were one off the Red Storm’s season-high of 24 set three times against Mercer, Albany and Butler. 12 of those turnovers were the result of St. John’s steals, a category in which the Red Storm ranks fourth nationally with 10.1 per contest through games played on Saturday. In 17 seasons as a head coach prior to taking over at St. John’s, Mike Anderson saw his teams lead the nation in steals four times and finish inside the top 30 on four separate occasions.
On the other end, St. John’s converted on 45.8 percent of its field goal tries, marking the team’s best shooting effort of BIG EAST play and its fifth best overall of the season. The Johnnies made the most of their three-point opportunities, going 9-for-21 (42.9%) from distance and turning in their best performance of the conference season in that regard. The only time this season that St. John’s managed a better three-point percentage came in a win over Columbia on Nov. 20 (7-of-15, 46.7%).
In the team’s first game since learning that senior guard Mustapha Heron will likely miss the rest of the season with a right ankle injury, LJ Figueroa led four St. John’s in double figures on Wednesday, scoring 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including a 4-of-9 showing from beyond the arc. The BIG EAST’s steals leader also recorded four thefts.
Making his third straight start, Julian Champagnie finished with 14 points, seven boards, two blocks and two steals. In his three games since returning to the starting lineup, the freshman from Brooklyn is averaging 12.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per outing.
Fellow Brooklyn native Rasheem Dunn tallied an efficient 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field and a 5-of-6 showing from the line while dishing out a team-high four assists.
The team’s most consistent three-point threat over the last two games (5-of-7), Marcellus Earlington recorded 12 points and six boards. Classmate Greg Williams Jr. narrowly missed becoming the fifth Johnnie in double figures with nine points, a career-high seven boards, three assists and two blocks.
Xavier will wrap a two-game road swing on Monday after a furious comeback fell just short on Wednesday at No. 19 Butler, 66-61. The Musketeers trailed by as many as 17 in the second half before pulling within five in the final seconds. Naji Marshall, the team’s leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, scored 18 of his 20 points in the latter stanza while Tyrique Jones posted his 17th double-double of the year with 19 points and 10 boards. Jones’ 17 double-doubles rank third in the nation while his 11.1 rebounds per game are good enough for eighth in all of Division I.
The Red Storm will look to avenge a Jan. 5 loss to the Musketeers in Cincinnati during which the Johnnies made just one of their 16 attempts from beyond the arc. Figueroa, who made the team’s lone triple in that outing, led the way with 17 points.
St. John’s will look to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Musketeers that dates back to 2015-16. The Red Storm’s last win against Xavier came on Feb. 23, 2015, in Madison Square Garden, the second leg of a regular season sweep.
After taking on Xavier, the Red Storm will hit the road for two games against nationally ranked foes, traveling to Seton Hall on Feb. 23 before facing off with Villanova at The Finneran Pavilion on Feb. 26.
For more information on the St. John’s University Men’s Basketball team fans are encouraged to click on the link seen here: