Following a week-long break from action, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team will return to the hardwood on Tuesday, playing host to Xavier inside Carnesecca Arena.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on FS1 and 970 AM WNYM. John Fanta and Tarik Turner will have the television call from Queens while John Minko and Vin Parise will narrate the action over the airwaves.
St. John’s (13-8, 7-7 BIG EAST) will look to move back above .500 in BIG EAST play one week removed from an overtime loss to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Red Storm enters the contest ranked sixth in the BIG EAST, percentage points behind Connecticut in fifth. Xavier (11-3, 4-3 BIG EAST) currently sits in fourth following a weekend loss to the Huskies. The defeat in Indianapolis snapped a six-game winning streak for the Johnnies, including a four-game undefeated stretch on the road in conference play, a first for St. John’s since the 1998-99 season. In total, St. John’s played nine of its first 14 BIG EAST games on the road and is currently scheduled to end the regular season with four of five inside the friendly confines of Carnesecca Arena.
The Red Storm led by two in the closing seconds of regulation against Butler before Aaron Thompson forced overtime. The Johnnies led again in extra period, 73-72, before the Bulldogs scored the final four points of the evening.
Julian Champagnie led the way in that game with 19 points and eight rebounds. The leading scorer in the BIG EAST at 19.7 points per game, Champagnie has scored 18 or more points in 12 of his 19 appearances this season. In addition to topping the conference scoring chart, the sophomore from Brooklyn also ranks among the top 10 in the conference in rebounding, blocks and steals.
Rasheem Dunn and Isaih Moore also finished in double figures last time out at Butler. Dunn tallied 12 points, five assists and only one turnover while Moore threw down five dunks and went 3-for-4 from the line to log 13 points. Over the team’s last seven games, a stretch that has seen the Johnnies go 6-1, Dunn is averaging a team-high 5.1 assists per outing while Moore is converting at a blazing 73.0 percent clip from the floor.
Posh Alexander, who had won three consecutive BIG EAST Freshman of the Week awards heading into the Butler game, finished with eight points, marking the first time in nearly a month that the Brooklyn native did not reach double figures. Each of the team’s last eight wins have coincided with Alexander scoring with 10 or more points. On the season, St. John’s is 10-2 when Alexander eclipses the 10-point mark. In addition to being the team’s second leading scorer, Alexander also leads the Johnnies and ranks seventh in the BIG EAST in assists while pacing the league and ranking seventh nationally with 2.6 steals per game.
A win on Tuesday would give Mike Anderson the 400th victory of his head coaching career. In addition to his 399 victories at UAB, Missouri, Arkansas and St. John’s, Anderson also boasts 390 victories as an assistant coach in 17 seasons under his former coach and mentor Nolan Richardson.
After dealing with a number of COVID-related issues in the program, Xavier has played only twice in the last month, topping Butler in Indianapolis on Jan. 30 before falling to the Huskies at home on Saturday. The Musketeers went 7-0 in non-conference play to start the season, including a 22-point win over an Oklahoma team that now ranks no. 9 in the AP Poll.
Xavier is led offensively by Zach Freemantle, who averages team highs of 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Paul Scruggs, the BIG EAST leader in assists at 6.4 per game, averages 14.2 points per contest while Nate Johnson adds 11.7 per outing to round out a trio of Musketeers in double figures. Johnson is the top 3-point shooter in the BIG EAST, making 52.6 percent of his chances from beyond the arc.
St. John’s and Xavier met on Jan. 6 in Cincinnati, a 69-61 win for the Musketeers. Xavier managed to come out on top despite going 0-for-12 from beyond the arc. Dunn scored a season-high 17 points in the loss.
The Red Storm will look to top Xavier for the first time since the 2014-15 season and snap a streak of 12 consecutive losses. The streak is currently one shy of the St. John’s program record against a single opponent, as the Johnnies lost 13 straight to Villanova between 2012 and 2018.
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