Xavier steals one from St. John’s at MSG
by Bryan Fonseca
Feb 18, 2020 | 1138 views | 0 0 comments | 134 134 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Naji Marshall heard the boos at MSG, but he and Xavier got the last laugh.
Naji Marshall heard the boos at MSG, but he and Xavier got the last laugh.
Naji Marshall was the most hated man in the world’s most famous arena for about 45 minutes. So, of course, the basketball gods awarded the fearless forward an opportunity to back up his talk to win the game in the waning seconds.

Early in the second half, the 6-foot-7 swingman began jawing back-and-forth with the nearby raucous Red Storm fans after he scored nine points inside of a three-minute stretch.

As play continued, Marshall was vehemently booed with every touch, and cheered when he accumulated three second-half turnovers down the stretch.

But Marshall had a golden opportunity to lift his Musketeers, who were down 74-73 with 45 seconds to go following an untimely St. John’s miss.

Marshall, guarded by the Red Storm’s best player in LJ Figueroa, attempted to drive into the lane. Off a spin he lost control, and the ball was picked up by the Storm’s Rasheem Dunn, who subsequently missed the first free throw of a one-and-one after drawing a foul.

With 20 seconds to go Marshall was essentially granted a mulligan, again handling the ball at the top of the key searching for a way to knife into the lane.

This time he found teammate Zach Freemantle, who netted the go-ahead bucket with 10 seconds left. Following a missed Figueroa floater with two seconds to play, Xavier added two more Freemantle free throws, winning 77-74.

“I almost called a timeout, but Naji had the ball and I trust Naji,” said Xavier head coach Travis Steele. “He made the right play.”

Marshall finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. And, more importantly, the last laugh.

For St. John’s, they now drop to 2-4 at Madison Square Garden with a record of 14-11 (3-10 Big East) overall, while Xavier improves to 17-9 (6-7).

“The first thing I told my guys was ‘I feel for you,’” said head coach Mike Anderson after the loss. “You’re right there on the cusp of beating a good team that’s been playing really well and just could not finish the last minute-and-a-half the correct way. You’ve got to make plays going down the stretch.”

Dunn and Marcellus Earlington led the Johnnies with 17 points each. Dunn began shooting 1-of-6, and converted on four consecutive shots before finishing 5-of-12 from the field.

Earlington’s buckets accompanied eight rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, in which the forward shot 7-of-14 from the floor.

“Everybody was feeding off each other,” said Earlington. “We were talking on defense, we were playing with energy and we were just doing what coach was telling us to do. We just have to play our basketball, we have to just finish.”

With Mustapha Heron out with an ankle injury, guard Nick Rutherford stepped up for 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 26 minutes of play, along with seven assists.

The Red Storm return to action this Sunday in Newark, where they’ll face Seton Hall at 2 pm. Seton Hall is ranked 16th in the country in the latest AP poll.
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