St. John's has been a member of the Big East conference for over 30 years. It is a high profile basketball program that dominates the marketplace in New York City.
It has sent numerous players to the NBA. Ron Artest, Chris Mullen and Mark Jackson to name just a few. Their head coach, Steve Lavin, has experience with high profile programs at the storied Mecca of college basketball UCLA.
"Give Xavier credit," Lavin said, wearing a silk pin stripe suit. "They boat-raced us in the second half."
The St. John Red Storm (9-1,0-1) held the Musketeers scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the first half, building a 9-0 lead. Xavier hung around.
"We wanted to stop their first break," Lavin said. "Semaj Christon is one of the best in the country at turning the corner and heading down court. We did that in the first half."
Christon had just four points in the half.
"We wanted to pound the boards," Lavin said.
St. John outrebounded Xavier by seven in the first half.
"We wanted to front and back their big men, (Matt) Stainbrook, who is Billy Paltz reincarnated," Lavin said referencing the big former NBA player, who was known for his size and strength.
It took a while for Stainbrook to get rolling. He ended up with 10 rebounds and scored nine points.
St. John lead 29-27 at the half.
"It was the tale of two halves," Lavin said. "What we took away from them in the first half, they did all three in the second half."
Senior Justin Martin sparked Xavier with 15 points. Twelve of them were in the second half.
He down played the importance of the new conference.
"Not to be a party pooper but we want to win every game," Martin said, matter-of-factly. "It was nice to win in the Big East but we want to win all the time."
Xavier coach Chris Mack attached a little more importance to getting off to a fast start in the new league.
"It is a big day for Xavier," Mack said, while giving insight into the personality of his senior player.
"J Mart is a fourth year player. He's seen it all. I think he's one of the best poker players on the court. I'd like to see more emotion from him. He's playing hard but bringing more enthusiasm is his next step."
Mack wasn't worried about the game opening scoring drought that stretched into the second TV timeout.
"We were playing good defense," Mack said. "We were getting the ball where we wanted it but we weren't finishing around the basket. Some of that you credit to St. John's. They are athletic. It is hard to finish against them. The lead the country in blocked shots for a reason."
Xavier opened the second half by scoring 11 unanswered points, opening an 11 point lead in the first five minutes of the half. Martin scored nine of them.
"We continued to play great defense. I think St. John's got a little frustrated when they couldn't score," Mack said.
Xavier (11-3,1-0) extended its winning streak to six games. They shot 56.5% from the floor in the second half. It was the highest percentage the St. John's has allowed in a half.
Isaiah Philmore scored 11 points and had nine rebounds. Christon finished with 10.
D'Angelo Harrison led all scorers with 21 points. JaKarr Sampson had 10 for the Red Storm. Orlando Sanchez led St. John's with eight rebounds. Chis Obekpa blocked four Xavier shots.