Both the Johnnies and the Butler Bulldogs will be desperate for a Big East win when they meet this upcoming Saturday. The Johnnies come into this game 7-11 overall (0-5) in Big East play. Johnnies seek to get on the win column in the Big East and snap an 8 game losing streak which is the longest in their basketball program's history.
Coach Mullin understands where his team stands and preaches experience as an important factor in the teams development. "We knew this was going to be a tough year. Just look at our roster, that's what it's going to be. When we get more experience, then all these things are gonna come back and be valuable to us. We'll look back on it and say it was worth it," said Mullin via the New York Post.
The Bulldogs will be playing with heavy hearts on Saturday since the news broke of the passing of former Butler player Andrew Smith. Smith passed away Tuesday, January 12th. Smith played at Butler for four years. He was also an Academic-All American. Hinkle Fieldhouse will be packed to capacity as the Butler basketball team and the Bulldogs faithful honor Smith prior to tipoff with a moment of silence and a video tribute. The Butler players will be wearing a special patch on their jerseys (AS44) to honor Smith.
Who: St. John's Red Storm vs Butler Bulldogs
When: Saturday, January 16th, 12pm EST
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Radio: 570 AM WMCA
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and StJohnsBBall for updates
Last Meeting: Butler dominated the game winning by a score of 85-62. Butler's starters combined to score 72 of the teams 85 points.
The Bulldogs come into this game 12-4 overall (1-3) in Big East play. Bulldogs lost 3 of their last 4 games including 2 straight at home. Their last loss came against the 11th ranked Villanova Wildcats. Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game with 17 seconds left on the game clock. Jordan Gathers missed a three-point shot from the corner that could of leveled the game at 58 a piece. Villanova secured the rebound and sealed the game with free-throws. Coach Holtmann decided not to call his last timeout during that possession. "We've got a mature group, I don't press the panic button when teams make runs. If I had to do it over again I wouldn't call a timeout," said Holtmann after the game per the IndyStar.
The Bulldogs average 84.6 points per game, tied for 15th in the nation. They commit just 9.4 turnovers a game, leading the Big East. Bulldogs are led by senior forward Roosevelt Jones who leads the team in scoring (14.6), rebounding (7), and assists (4.6). Jones sprained his left wrist during practice prior to the home game against Villanova. The injury did not slow him down however, he scored 20 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in the losing effort.
Butler's senior guard Kellen Dunham struggled with his three-point shooting prior to his last 3 games. Dunham missed 23 straight three-point shots over a 5 game stretch but has since made 9 of his last 15. For the Johnnies to have a chance in this game they have to run Dunham off the three point line and force him to take contested shots. Dunham's specialty is running off screens for open looks but he also does a great job of getting of shots on his own.
Coach Holtmann doesn't expect it to be easy playing St. John's as he stressed the importance of each game - "Every game is a big time challenge. You can't play poorly against anyone in this league and expect to win".
Keys to the game:
Limiting Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham
Jones has a plethora of moves in his offensive arsenal, he can score both inside and outside. He frequently finds his way to the free-throw line as he leads the Bulldogs with 87 attempts. Jones improved his free-throw shooting from 60% last year to 69% this year. Once the opposing teams focus shifts on Jones he's able to create open looks for his teammates, doing so by attacking the basket at will.
Johnnies have to run Dunham off the three-point line and make him work on the defensive end. Dunham's shooting 45% from the field during the last 3 games. He leads the team in scoring (15.3). If the Johnnies disrupt his rhythm and get Dunham into early foul trouble early they will have a chance to keep pace with the Bulldogs.
Keeping Butler off the free-throw line
Dunham is shooting 90% from the line, 2nd on the team at 86% is junior guard Tyler Lewis. Butler's big man Andrew Chrabascz is 3rd on the team at 74%. Johnnies have to stay out of foul trouble and force the Bulldogs into taking tough shots.
Balanced Scoring and Offensive Rhythm
Johnnies last win on the year came against Syracuse. Five players (Johnson, Mussini, Yakwe, Alibegovic, Mvouika) scored in double figures in that game. Johnnies will need a similar effort all around to have a chance at a win against Butler.
Johnnies could not beat the full court press put on by the Hoyas in their last game. They were sped up throughout the first half and in effect turned the ball over 8 times in the first half. The Johnnies need to take care of the ball early and remain poised on the offensive end. They have to make it a habit in attacking the rim early and often as Butler doesn't have a starter over 6'8.