By: Nick McGill ~Sports Editor~
Men roll past Cincinnati and Butler, fall to St. John’s
Xavier men’s basketball went into the Crosstown Shootout on Feb. 18 looking to spoil the Cincinnati Bearcats on their home court. After narrowly escaping with a victory at Cincinnati, the Musketeers upset No. 19 Butler at home before losing by one to St. John’s on the road.
As the Musketeers took the floor at Fifth Third Arena, the hostile crowd booed. Way in the back corner of the upper level behind the Xavier bench, a small army of X-treme fans raucously cheered on their Musketeers.
Xavier jumped out to a hot start in the first half leading by 12 at the break. The Bearcats wasted no time in the second half to claw their way back into the game. Xavier saw its lead finally vanish with 1:58 to play when a tip in by Cincinnati junior forward, big man Octavius Ellis, tied the game at 53.
Xavier would have to play catch-up for the rest of the game and regained the lead only briefly on a clutch 3-point shot by senior guard Dee Davis. Down by just one, freshman forward Trevon Bluiett went to the line having yet to score and knocked down two crucial free throws to seal the victory for the Musketeers, 59-57.
Xavier then came to Cintas Center with momentum after getting a tournament resume-building win on the road.
The Musketeers faced the No. 19 Butler Bulldogs and dominated from start to finish — once leading by 29 points with 5:47 left in the game. Xavier won 73-56 with sophomore guard Myles Davis leading the way with 18 points.
Perhaps the most important of the three games over six days was the road game at Madison Square Garden against the St. John’s Red Storm. St. John’s is currently one of the hottest teams in the conference, having won four of its last five games.
The game was full of runs, ups and downs for both teams as each took its respective fans on an emotional ride.
Xavier jumped out to a hot 11-0 lead to start the game before getting overpowered by St. John’s for the remainder of the half, going into halftime down 28-20.
At the onset of the second half, Xavier’s offense began to click as the team went on a 15-0 run to lead 35-30 with just more than 12 minutes to play. Down the stretch, the Xavier offense continued its trend of turning the ball over and getting shots blocked. Xavier finished with 20 turnovers to only 14 assists, resulting in 20 points off of turnovers for the Red Storm.
As the clock ticked down, Myles Davis missed a running jumper, and Xavier fell to St. John’s 58-57. The loss brings Xavier’s conference record to 8-8 and continues to put pressure on the Musketeers to earn a marquee win to help their tournament chances.
That opportunity may come on Feb. 28 when Xavier takes on Big East powerhouse No. 6 Villanova for senior night at 2 p.m. at Cintas. On March 7, the team will also travel to Omaha, Neb., to face Creighton to end the regular season.