Eli Horowitz | Medium Talk Co-Creator
NEW YORK -- With six minutes left in the game, Xavier point guard Edmond Sumner again drove past St. John’s point guard Marcus Lovett for a basket and the foul, but landed awkwardly and had to be helped off the floor. Xavier held on for the 82-77 win, but may lose Sumner as his knee appeared to buckle on the nasty spill.
Xavier head coach Chris Mack said Sumner would be evaluated Monday and there was no information on his injury. “My first concern is for our point guard Edmond Sumner,” said Mack. “Obviously, it didn’t look good. But I have no information.”
Following the injury, Xavier backup point guard Quentin Goodin made the free throw in place of Sumner to give Xavier a 68-56 lead, but the loss of Sumner gave life to St. John’s. Xavier, without their primary ball handler, began to succumb to St. John’s full court pressure. The Red Storm, led by 23 points from freshman guard Shamorie Ponds, went on a 10-0 run, taking advantage of Xavier turnovers and missed shots to pull within two at 68-66 with just over four minutes left. “I thought the game flipped to St. John’s favor when Edmond went out,” said Mack. “We were searching.” But two points was the closest St. John’s would get, as the Musketeers got just enough from leading scorer Trevon Bluiett (21 points) and Goodin (16 points) to escape with the win.
Goodin, who came in averaging just 2.9 points per game, went 7 of 9 from the free throw line and helped Xavier close the game in an unfamiliar role. “I don’t know how many freshman point guards could have taken the pressure and flipped it,” said Mack. “I’m really, really happy for Quentin to be able to step up.”
Speaking to the media after the game, Goodin said he’s grown more comfortable with each game and has watched a lot of film in order to be ready. “It’s my job as a point guard to come in and run the team,” he said.
Before getting hurt, Sumner, a projected late first-round pick according to NBA Draft Net and Draft Express, showed his full arsenal with a reverse slam, an emphatic rejection of a St. John’s layup, and numerous drives to the basket on his way to 17 points, seven assists and four rebounds. It took less than 12 seconds for the 6-foot-6 guard to make his presence felt as he scored the games’ first basket by posting up St. John’s Marcus LoVett, taking advantage of a six-inch height advantage.
St. John’s got most of their scoring from their backcourt of Shamorie Ponds (23 points), LoVett (11 points) and Bashir Ahmed (11 points), but the team was just 5-of-23 on 3-pointers after entering the game third in the Big East in 3-point shooting at 38.6 percent. “We just started out slow, it kind of put us in a hole,” said LoVett. “That was a winnable game.”
In a sloppy game in which both teams shot poorly and combined for 32 turnovers and 56 fouls, rebounding was critical. Xavier took advantage on the boards with 17 offensive rebounds and a 45-26 rebounding edge overall. St. John’s, dead last in the Big East in defensive rebounding, gave Xavier too many extra opportunities despite holding the Musketeers to 5-of-18 on 3-pointers and just 32 points in the first half. “Pretty much every game we get outrebounded,” said Ponds. “One through five we need to do a better job.”
St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin echoed his players on the rebounding woes, especially given how poorly they shot from distance. “We shoot 5-for-23 and give up 17 offensive rebounds, that’s probably the difference in the game,” said Mullin. Still, Mullin chose to look at the game as a step in the right direction. “We got it back to three. That's progress,” he said, comparing the effort to when the teams met on Jan. 7th in Cincinnati, a 97-82 victory for Xavier. St John’s (10-13, 4-6), who entered Sunday’s game coming off a 91-86 road win against Providence, will host Marquette Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
No. 24 Xavier was coming off a crushing 86-78 loss against crosstown rival No. 19 Cincinnati, a game in which they led by eight at the half and spoiled a career night of 40 points from leading scorer Trevon Bluiett (18.5 ppg). The Musketeers were abused by Cincinnati on the glass, something they tried to correct Sunday. “Last game we didn’t dominate at all. We kind of took that personally,” said Bluiett, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds after a quiet first half. Xavier (14-6, 5-4) hosts Seton Hall on Wednesday, but will likely be without Sumner pending MRI results. “Keep him in your prayers. Hopefully he’ll be back on the court sooner than later,” said Mack.