St. John's basketball second half comeback flops in final minutes against Xavier

The St. John's basketball team squandered a chance to steal a victory on the road
St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) catches an entry pass as Xavier Musketeers forward
St. John's Red Storm center Joel Soriano (11) catches an entry pass as Xavier Musketeers forward / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Sometimes you don't play your best and still have a chance to win. The game was right there for the St. John's basketball team to steal on Wednesday night in Cincinnati but it couldn't.

The Johnnies looked a step slow against Xavier following a week off and the Musketeers were out hustling the Red Storm down the floor, resulting in 28 fast break points.

Xavier's lead grew to as many as 11 points, 58-47, with 13:10 remaining and were on the cusp of running St. John's out of the Cintas Center before a Rick Pitino timeout sparked a 13-4 run which had the Johnnies looking like a different team.

It was still too deep of a hole to dig out of and too much energy exerted to complete the comeback. The Red Storm finally drew even, 73-73, with 3:59 left but that's the best they could do.

After the game was tied, 75-75, Xavier ended the game on a 13-2 run over the final 2:43, winning 88-77.

"In order to beat a team like Xavier on the road, you have to have a great performance and we certainly didn't defensively tonight," Pitino said.

St. John's (13-8, 5-5 Big East) got very little production out of anyone besides Daniss Jenkins and Joel Soriano, who combined for 46 points on 19-of-31 shooting.

The rest of the team had 31 points on 8-of-32 shooting.

“It couldn’t have been good enough, we lost the game,” Jenkins said about his team's effort.

“I’m always just telling the guys we need to go harder, we need to work harder. That’s all I believe in...We have to work harder and play smart at the same time.”

Xavier had three consecutive possessions which resulted in field goals off of offensive rebounds that put the game away, which has become a theme for the Red Storm.

"Sometimes games are won and lost on a loose ball rebound," Pitino explained.

The Musketeers (11-10, 5-5 Big East) were leading, 77-75, and Dailyn Swain got an offensive rebound off a blocked shot by Chris Ledlum that allowed Quincy Olivari to drill a corner 3-pointer to push the lead to five. After a Jordan Dingle layup, Olivari would hit another 3-pointer which was followed by a 3-pointer from Dayvion McKnight on the next trip down the floor.

End scene.

It's the fourth loss in five games for St. John's and its schedule does not get any easier with No. 1 UConn (19-2, 9-1 Big East) coming to Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m. ET, FOX).

Desmond Claude, Olivari, and McKnight were the only players to reach double figures for Xavier and combined for 65 points while shooting 24-for-26 from the free throw line.

"We're a team that has two really good players and they showed it tonight in [Daniss Jenkins] and [Joel] Soriano...we didn't get a whole lot out of our other guys tonight," Pitino added.