Last time out, the Johnnies gave the 6th ranked Xavier Musketeers all they could handle before falling on the road, 90-83. Now that positive energy and momentum needs to carry over so St. John's can snap the cruel losing streak, that now sits at 13.
After the contest against Xavier, head coach Chris Mullin wants to make sure his team can stay the course and better themselves as one cohesive unit.
"We work hard, we play together and we win and lose together," Mullin said. "That was a winning performance. It's not going to show in the win-loss column, but that's winning basketball, there's no question about that. So I'm proud of my team."
There are eight games left in the season, eight more opportunities for the Red Storm to show pride in their performance, show some promise for next year and finally break into the win column in Big East play.
Who: St. John's Red Storm (7-16) vs Butler Bulldogs (15-7)
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
When: Saturday, February 6th, 4:30 PM
TV: Contest will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest, a channel eastern residents do not get.
Audio: 570 WMCA
Twitter: Follow @rumbleSBN and @StJohnsBBall for updates
Tickets: You can purchase tickets to the game here.
Last Meeting: The Butler Bulldogs defeated the Johnnies 78-58 earlier this season.
Fun Fact: Former Butler Tony Hinkle invented the orange basketball.
Scouting the Bulldogs of Butler
The Butler Bulldogs are a Big East team that has been in and out of the Top 25 all season long.
Last season, Butler finished 23-11 and 12-6 in Big East play. Despite a sturdy regular season the Bulldogs were dropped in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32 at the hands of Notre Dame. Over the offseason Butler lost some key contributors, including Kameron Woods and Alex Barlow. Both played massive roles on the Bulldogs during their four seasons playing NCAA basketball. Barlow was a leader that could knock down shots when he needed to and finish games off for Butler at the free-throw line. Woods, on the other hand, was one of Butler's best shot-blockers and a tenacious rebounder.
Even with the departures, Butler is a very dangerous team with many capable scorers. Butler has 4 players that average over 10 points per game and almost every player on their roster has the ability to torch a defense. This season as a team they average a solid 47% shooting percentage from the field and 36% average behind the arc.
One player to keep an eye on in this contest is senior guard Kellen Dunham. Over the course of this season Dunham has proven he is one of the best shooters in the nation. Currently, Dunham is averaging about 16 points per game while shooting 42% from the field and 40% from three-point territory. He is also a fantastic free-throw shooter - currently 90% from the charity stripe. Last time he played against the Johnnies he scored 24 points while getting to the free-throw line 11 times.
Another player St. John's must watch out for is senior forward Roosevelt Jones. This 6-foot-4 small forward is averaging about 15 points per game and shooting 50% from the field. He is also a superb passer and often looks to assist his teammates - he is currently averaging about 5 assists per game. Only four Big East players have higher assist-per-game numbers.
He was recently named a finalist for the Julius Erving award handed out to the best small forward in the nation. Against St. John's on January 16th, Jones was held to only 5 points while scoring 4 of those from the free-throw line. St. John's must continue to slow down Jones if they want to grab their first win since a contest against Syracuse.
Butler is a solid team that excels when they are sharing the ball and knocking down shots. Some weaknesses St. John's needs to expose are Butler's below average defense and their rebounding struggles.
Keys to Game
Slow Down Dunham: During Big East play Kellen Dunham has been on fire. Against Big East opponents Dunham is averaging about 17 points per game and is shooting an absurd 52% from behind the arc. Against Villanova, the Johnnies were able to slow down Wildcats star Ryan Arcidiacono. If St. John's can make Dunham uncomfortable they might have a shot to send Butler home packing with a devastating loss.
Continue the offensive production: Throughout the season, St. John's has never put together a stretch where they showed consistent offensive progress. Whether it is poor shooting from the field, lack of second chances, or turnovers it always seems St. John's struggles on offense. Against Xavier, the Johnnies got out in transition, limited their turnovers, and knock down jump shots. If this can continue and a variety of St. John's players start scoring in bunches, St. John's will have a chance to upset Butler at home.
Fix the foul problem: Recently, St. John's has allowed teams to get to the line way to easily. Against Villanova, the Wildcats shot 25 free-throws in comparison to the Johnnies 12 free-throw opportunities. The situation was even worse against Xavier on Wednesday night. The Musketeers shot 40 free throws opposed to the 21 that St. John's shot. Butler is a great free-throw shooting team, if they get to line often then St. John's has no chance. Yankuba Sima did practice this week and his return seems to be within the coming days. If he plays then Butler will have a more difficult time attacking the basket and drawing fouls.
Yankuba Sima will practice fully today, per Chris Mullin. Could return soon. #sjubb— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) February 5, 2016
Butler travels to play a St. John's team that is coming off their best game this season. Despite the positive momentum St. John's may have coming into this game, Butler is built to beat this St. John's team. Butler forces turnovers and convert at the free-throw line. St. John's turns the ball over all the time and gives teams tons of opportunities at the free-throw line. Those factors are a recipe for disaster, even at home.
Final Prediction: 74-60 Butler