CINCINNATI (AP) — Chris Mack didn’t get to do much as a Xavier player because of knee injuries. As the Musketeers’ coach, nobody has won more games.
Kerem Kanter scored 22 points and made the biggest plays during a late run that swept the 11th-ranked Musketeers to an 88-82 victory over St. John’s on Wednesday night, making Mack the school’s leader in career coaching wins.
In his ninth season, Mack moved ahead of Pete Gillen — his former coach — with 203 wins.
“I didn’t have much of an impact as a player because of injuries, but I’ve made an impact here with the guys I’ve coached and we’ve won some games,” Mack said. “It’s humbling, it really is. When I first became a coach at Xavier, I didn’t think about it at all, quite honestly.”
One of his newest additions made the difference in win No. 203.
Kanter had eight points and an emphatic block during a 17-2 run that kept Xavier (17-3, 5-2 Big East) unbeaten in 13 games at the Cintas Center this season. He also matched his career high with 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
“Kerem played his best game in a Xavier uniform,” Mack said.
The graduate student came from Green Bay hoping to play in a lot of big games during his final college season. He played the biggest role in getting Mack the breakthrough win. After the game, Mack was presented with a commemorative basketball on the court.
“He’s a great X’s and O’s coach,” Kanter said. “I love the plays he runs. He has so much energy on the sideline and our team feeds off that energy and brings it onto the court.”
Trevon Bluiett emerged from a shooting slump by scoring 24 points during a 92-70 win over then-No. 25 Creighton on Saturday. He followed with 23 points Wednesday.
St. John’s (10-9, 0-7) led midway through the second half before Xavier surged ahead 79-67 with 2:56 left. The Red Storm dropped their seventh straight. Justin Simon had a career-high 28 points.
“Scoring 28 doesn’t mean a lot to me personally,” Simon said. “Scoring is not my game. I just do what they need me to do.”
St. John’s: The Red Storm keep coming close and coming up short. Five of the losses during their skid have been by seven points or fewer.
Xavier: The Musketeers have regained their footing after consecutive road losses at Providence and No. 1 Villanova that dropped them from No. 5 nationally to No. 11. Their 3-point shooting was a big problem during the two losses, and they found their touch during the two wins. They went 14 of 26 from beyond the arc on Wednesday.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Asked if he thought his team could “steal” a win after getting ahead in the second half, St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said: “We’re looking to steal anything at this point. I’d steal your lungs right about now if you don’t watch out. It’s been a tough stretch for us. We’ve actually played pretty good basketball and not gotten a win for it.”
Xavier forward Kaiser Gates responded to being dropped from the starting lineup against Creighton by scoring 16 points. He followed with 11 points in 21 minutes on Wednesday.
Xavier forward Tyrique Jones sat out the win over Creighton because of an injured right hand. His right thumb was taped Wednesday. He played 9 minutes, got two rebounds and missed both of his shots.
NO SHOWING OFF
Simon opened the game with a dunk and got a technical for hanging on the rim in celebration.
St. John’s made its first 11 shots in the second half but went cold after getting the lead, going only 5 of 13 the rest of the way.
St. John’s: plays a second straight road game at Georgetown. The Red Storm lost at home to the Hoyas 69-66 on Jan. 9.
Xavier: plays at No. 19 Seton Hall on Saturday. The rematch is Feb. 14 at the Cintas Center.