St. John's traveled to Hinkle Fieldhouse to face the Butler Bulldogs and mauled them, 69-52, after giving up 25 points in the first ten minutes. The performance was impressive, and the Red Storm have now won three in a row and two in Big East play.
But the Johnnies are ending the supposedly soft part of their schedule, where the team went 3-2 overall, 2-2 in Big East play. Creighton looms in Omaha tonight (and again in just under two weeks) with Marquette at home and a trip to Providence in between.
The takeaways from Saturday's game will be aspects of the game we will watch for against the Creighton Blue Jays, who can score better than almost any other team in the country, using the three-pointer, good ball movement, and likely All-American Doug McDermott.
First, a look back at Butler.
By most measures, St. John's defense had an impressive outing after the first ten minutes of the game. After giving up 27 points, the Red Storm held the Butler Bulldogs to less than half that amount for the next 30 minutes, including the Butler droughts where they did not score from the field for six minutes in the first half (they did get a trio of free throws) and the second half drought where the team scored two points in the last eight minutes of play.
JaKarr Sampson's jumper is cooking right now.
According to the play-by-play data, Jakarr Sampson shot 6/10 on jump shots and even earned some layups, going 3/4 at the rim. While not drawing fouls like an elite scorer, if Sampson's go-to jump shot is hitting this way - over 50% - and he's getting shots at the rim, the Johnnies will be a better offensive team.
The folks at Big Apple Buckets agree:
Sampson, who I highlighted as an important piece for St. John’s moving forward, shot 17-25 (68%) on two-point attempts during those two games. The game against Butler was Sampson most efficient (in terms of offensive rating) of the entire season. The Red Storm took a big step forward this past week and Sampson was a big reason why.
St. John's did a very good job of defending the three-point line.
One of the biggest components of three-point defense is encouraging teams to just not shoot them. Good defensive teams use length and preparation to funnel high-percentage-shooting opponents inside, encouraging the least efficient shot - the long midrange two-pointer against defensive pressure.
Butler took 18% of their shots from beyond the deadly three-point line - far below their normal ratio of 32% of their shots in Big East play.
Can St. John's do that against Creighton?
Jamal Branch's eight assists are the second-most of any player on the team; only Sir`Dominic Pointer's 11 dimes vs Fordham tops that number.
St. John's held Butler to 18 points in the second half and .62 points per possession in that half - their best performance in Big East play in a half.
With a strong 16-point performance after a six-assist performance, Rysheed Jordan earned his first Big East Rookie of the Week award for his diversified play.