Xavier makes clutch shots down the stretch to hold off St. John’s

Desmond Claude and Quincy Olivari each scored 23 points, with Olivari sinking a pair of clutch threes late, to lead Xavier to an 88-77 win over visiting St. John’s in a Big East matchup Wednesday night in Cincinnati.

Dayvion McKnight added 19 points for Xavier (11-10, 5-5 Big East), which rebounded from Sunday’s 43-point road loss to top-ranked UConn — its largest margin of defeat in 51 years.

The Musketeers snapped a two-game skid to win their fourth in six games.

Daniss Jenkins scored 25 while Joel Soriano added 21 points and 15 rebounds for St. John’s (13-8, 5-5), which dropped its fourth in five games.

After St. John’s had fought back from an 11-point second-half deficit to tie the score, 75-75 with 3:02 remaining in regulation, Xavier answered by scoring the next five points, including a corner three from Olivari with 1:57 left to put the Musketeers ahead, 80-75.

Olivari rattled home another three from the top of the arc to put Xavier up, 83-77, with 1:24 left. A mid-range jumper from McKnight put Xavier up eight with 41 seconds left to seal the win.

McKnight and Olivari each had eight points to lead a balanced Xavier attack in the first half. Claude added seven points in the opening 20 minutes as Xavier took a 38-34 lead to the break.

Jenkins kept the Red Storm in the game in the first half, scoring 15 of St. John’s 34 points. Soriano added seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks as St. John’s stayed close.

Xavier opened up the lead to 11, 58-47, when freshman Dailyn Swain stole the ball from Jenkins and drove the length of the court for a two-handed dunk with 13:10 remaining.

But St. John’s responded, cutting the lead to two, 62-60, on a Jenkins steal of an inbounds pass, a layup and a free throw with 9:06 left.