CINCINNATI (AP) - Alone atop the Big East, No. 16 Xavier is taking a lot of confidence into its most challenging stretch yet. And the Musketeers are getting senior guard Myles Davis back, too.
Edmond Sumner had 20 points and seven assists on Saturday, leading a balanced offense that swept Xavier to a 97-82 victory over St. John’s. The Musketeers (13-2, 3-0) are the last unbeaten team in league play.
Xavier has won six straight games since consecutive road losses at Baylor and Colorado. Next up is a game at defending national champion Villanova, followed by one at Butler and another at home against Creighton - three straight ranked teams.
“We’re in the best possible situation,” said Malcolm Bernard, who was one of six players in double figures with 10 points. “We beat St. John’s with great energy and flow. I think we’ll be fine.”
After the game, coach Chris Mack said that Davis - who has been suspended all season while the courts handled a misdemeanor case - has been reinstated and will have an undefined role going forward.
“He’s going to earn everything he gets from this point forward,” Mack said . “So he’s got a lot of work to do.”
The Musketeers are getting big games from Sumner , who was limited for a while by an injured left hand. Sumner had a career-high 28 points with 8 rebounds and 6 assists in 81-76 win at Georgetown last Saturday.
“The last couple games, Edmond has found the way we would love him to play: aggressive, downhill, drawing fouls, drawing defenders,” Mack said.
Forward Kaiser Gates, who missed the start of the season while recovering from knee surgery, had a career-high 17 points as Xavier had a season high in points.
“It’s a distant memory,” Gates said of the knee injury. “It still gets a little sore once in a while, but I push through it. I’m pretty happy with how I’m playing.”
Marcus LoVett scored a career-high 32 for St. John’s (8-9, 2-2) , which went more than 8 minutes without a field goal in the first half. Xavier led 54-39 at the break, its highest-scoring half of the season.
“Defensively we were porous,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said. “Basically they did whatever they wanted to do. When you’re not playing with any intensity and aggressiveness on the defensive end, you’re not going to succeed.”
St. John’s: It was LoVett’s second 30-point game of his redshirt freshman season. He had 31 against Minnesota. He has scored at least 20 points six times. He’s from Indiana and had friends in the stands.
“It is close to home but anytime I get in the arena, I want to play well,” LoVett said.
Xavier: The Musketeers overcame a depleted front line. Top rebounder RaShid Gaston picked up two fouls in the opening minutes and headed to the bench for the rest of the half. He picked up his third foul with 16:52 to go and finished with two points and no rebounds in 7 minutes. Xavier went to a zone defense because of foul trouble and got outrebounded 38-36.
“We can’t let that part of our identity go the wrong way,” Mack said.
Xavier moved up one spot in the rankings this week and easily won its only game of the week.
The Red Storm completes a swing of consecutive road games in three days, playing at Georgetown on Monday. The Hoyas won both games against the Red Storm last season.
The Musketeers split their series with Villanova last season, with each team winning at home.
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