St. John's-Xavier Preview
A dominant run propelled Xavier to a lopsided win over one of the Big East's struggling teams. The Musketeers weren't afforded that luxury against St. John's last month.
Sixth-ranked Xavier looks to make things easier on itself and showcase its scoring depth in order to extend the visiting Red Storm's team-record losing streak Wednesday night.
The Musketeers (19-2, 7-2) overcame a seven-point deficit Saturday, using a 29-5 run to race by DePaul 86-65. The effort was helped greatly by a season-high 42 points from the reserves, including 12 apiece from sophomores Larry Austin Jr. and J.P. Macura.
"Our team is a deep team, I think an unselfish team, and each kid has sacrificed a little bit for the greater good. But those two did a phenomenal job," coach Chris Mack said.
That's been true of Xavier's bench all season, averaging 28.0 points to rank second in the conference behind Creighton's 28.4. However, the backups had a season-low 16 points in a 74-66 win at St. John's (7-15, 0-9) on Jan. 6.
The Musketeers should like their chances at sweeping the season series since the Red Storm surrender a league-high average of 79.3 points in Big East play.
They've lost 12 games in a row by an average of nearly 14 points after a 68-53 defeat to then-sixth-ranked Villanova on Sunday.
"I understand the process of being successful and building," first-year coach Chris Mullin said. "I want to win every single game, but I also know if you want to win you have to pay the price. It's not a short term fix and it's not supposed to be easy. When this thing turns around it will be much sweeter. And it will, I know it will."
That's unlikely to start Wednesday since Xavier has won 23 of its last 27 at home, including a 10-1 record this season.
The Musketeers, though, might be without James Farr, who picked up an injury and was limited to seven points and three rebounds in 16 minutes Saturday. The forward leads the team with 8.8 boards per game while his 10.6 points are third.
"Sort of tweaked the back of his leg, whether it's a hamstring, we'll see," Mack said. "Hopefully it's nothing serious."
Farr had eight points and seven rebounds against St. John's last month, while Myles Davis led Xavier with 19 points. The guard, though, is averaging 10.4 points over his last five games.
Austin attempts to build on what was easily the best performance of his career. The sophomore's production Saturday far exceeded his 2.2 points per game this season as he hit 4 of 5 from the floor and added five rebounds and four assists.
"He's certainly better off the dribble and getting into that mid-range game," Mack said. "It's less for him to really think about and worry about mechanics and more of a feel to get that thing in the basket."
St. John's could use a better effort from Federico Mussini, who matched his season low with three points while making 1 of 8 from the floor Sunday. The freshman guard wasn't much better four days prior, scoring nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in a 79-60 loss to Seton Hall.
Still, Mussini leads the Red Storm with 12.5 points per game, and he had 19 against Xavier.
Durand Johnson is averaging 12.1 points but has gone 9 for 28 while scoring 22 points over the last two games.