Coach Chris Mack Gets 203rd Win in Thriller Over St Johnís
Xavier Menís Basketball head coach Chris Mack recorded his 203rd career win on Wednesday night to become Xavierís all-time win leader following his teamís 88-82 win over the Red Storm of St. Johnís University. The No. 11 ranked Muskies improve to 17-3 on the year (5-2 Big East), as St. Johnís falls to 10-9 and remains winless in Big East play this season. Leading the way for the Musketeers in front of another sellout crowd at Cintas Center was Senior guard Trevon Bluiett with 23 points. Graduate transfer forward Kerem Kanter followed close behind with 22 points.
The game began with miscommunication on the defensive side of the ball for Xavier as St. Johnís Justin Simon opened the game with an electric dunk and then committed a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett answered with a three-pointer, the first of 14 three-point shots that Xavier would make throughout the contest. Xavier, who shot 14-26 from beyond the arc (53.8%), averaged only 7 per game previously.
The three-point shot saved Xavier in the first half, as they were unable to make a two-point field goal for the first 13 minutes of the game. Both teams shot exceptionally and abnormally well from 3, as St. Johnís went 11-24 (45.8%) in a valiant effort against the Big Eastís 2nd ranked team. Xavier and St. Johnís traded made shots throughout the contest as both teams shot 50% or over on field goals. The game featured 11 lead changes and large runs from both teams in a physical and hard-fought contest.
St. Johnís, in only their 3rd away game of the season, opened the second half 11 for 11 on field goal attempts as they jumped to an 61-59 lead with 11:30 left to play in the game. Xavier then went on a 15-0 run following the 8-minute mark to improve their lead to 10 and never looked back. Xavier played well defensively, showcasing a 1-3-1 zone, a 2-3 zone, and a man-to-man defense. The 1-3-1 zone left St. Johnís players with open corner three-point attempts, though they were unable to execute. Xavierís variety of defensive schemes changed the tempo of the game numerous times, working to the advantage of the Muskies, as St. Johnís rotation is not very deep due to injury and lack of experience.
Kerem Kanter had an impressive game in only his 3rd start of the season. Kanter scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds on his way to a double-double. He gave the Muskies a much-needed boost and contributed immensely during the Musketeerís 2nd half 15-0 run. Kanter has stepped up his game, causing starting forward Tyrique Jones (hand injury) to go almost unmissed. Senior guard J.P. Macura scored 16 points for Xavier and had 4 assists. Junior forward Kaiser Gates also added 11 points for Xavier. Leading scorers for St. Johnís were Justin Simon (28 points) and Shamorie Ponds (18 points).
The Muskies look to build on their winning momentum on Saturday, January 20th as they take on No. 19 ranked Seton Hall on the road. The game is set to begin at 2:30pm.