Jack Nunge had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 22 Xavier won his seventh straight game as he held off St. John’s 84-79 at Carnesecca Arena on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers (11-3, 3-0 Big East) built an 18-point cushion midway through the second half before fending off a late comeback attempt to set up a home showdown against No. 2 UConn on Saturday. Souley Boum had 17 points and six assists, and Zach Freemantle added 14 points and nine rebounds.
David Jones had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm (11-3, 1-2), which lost for the first time in nine games this season at Carnesecca Arena on campus.
Joel Soriano, who leads the nation with 11 double-doubles, added 14 points and eight rebounds. Montez Mathis also scored 14 for St. John’s, who have won all three previous meetings with Xavier after losing 12 in a row.
St. John’s twice cut the deficit to six late in the second period, then to five on a Jones 3-pointer with 26 seconds left. After a Xavier turnover, the Red Storm had a chance to make the end interesting, but Jones and Posh Alexander missed 3s before the buzzer.
After breaking into the AP Top 25 this week for the first time this season, Xavier consistently beat St. John’s to drop balls in a quick game. The Musketeers led a 16-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Boom, to open a 27-12 lead at 7:01 into the game and entered halftime ahead 48-37.