No. 6 Xavier goes for 20th win against St. John's
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NEW YORK -- A win over St. John's on Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena would provide No. 6 Xavier its 12th 20-win season in the last 13 years and its 20th 20-win season in the last 22 years.
The Musketeers (19-3, 7-2 Big East) are riding a four-game winning streak. St. John's (10-12, 0-10) has dropped 10 straight, including an 88-82 loss to Xavier on Jan. 17.
Xavier's J.P. Macura, who is second on the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game (21st in the Big East), is 24th on the school's career scoring list with 1,328 points.
Senior Trevon Bluiett, who is seventh in the conference in scoring at 18.9 points per game, had 13 points against Marquette on Jan. 24, giving him exactly 2,000 career points. He is the fifth 2,000-point scorer in Xavier history.
Bluiett is getting plenty of midseason national honors. He's on the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Watch List, Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 and a midseason second-team All-American (NBC and Sporting News).
"It feels pretty good. I feel like it really hasn't sunk in yet," Bluiett told Cincinnatti.com. "Coming in, there was no way to really hide from it, but I tried my best to really not think about it.
"Like I said, I've been a guy that's always been focusing on the team. ... My main concern was trying to get the win."
Xavier is third in the Big East and 22nd in the nation in free-throw percentage at 76.8 percent. Xavier's school record for a season is 74.9 percent (2007-08).
The Musketeers are shooting 81.8 percent in the last five minutes of games and 89 percent in the last two minutes of games. Two players are ranked in the top 15 in the Big East in free-throw shooting: Macura (tied for 10th at .833) and Bluiett (14th at .811).
Seven of the Red Storm's 10 losses during the skid have been by less than 10 points.
Starting with Xavier, St. John's begins its most grueling stretch of the season. In the span of eight days, the Johnnies will take on three top-10 opponents, facing No. 4 Duke on Saturday before heading to Philadelphia for a game with No. 1 Villanova on Feb. 7.
The last time St. John's faced three-straight ranked opponents was during the NCAA Tournament season of 2010-11, when the Red Storm played eight straight top-25 teams from Jan. 3 toJan. 30, a stretch that saw the team go 3-5.
"We feel like the players we have, the five or six core players, have all improved individually," Red Storm coach Chris Mullin said. "I've been around the game long enough to know that if you have good health and talent, you do well. We've got some good talent, have to mesh them together, get some continuity, and things will turn."
The loss of Marcus LoVett in late November to a season-ending knee injury has severely hurt the Red Storm's depth. In Big East play, the Red Storm are averaging just 6.5 points from its reserves, including back-to-back games with zero bench points against Seton Hall (Dec. 31) and Creighton (Jan. 3).
One bright spot for St. John's has been Tariq Owens. The redshirt junior center is averaging 14.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in the team's last three games, including a 17-point showing in a double-overtime loss to Georgetown on Jan. 20.
The nation's fifth-leading shot blocker at 3.41 per game, Owens has totaled 144 rejections during his two-year St. John's career, good enough for seventh on the program's all-time record list and just four behind teammate Kassoum Yakwe in sixth.
Updated January 29, 2018