St. John’s men’s basketball is still winless, but now, the focus turns to handling business on the road, at the great Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana against Butler.
In an alternate universe, we would tell you that Butler has a new coach, that St. John’s needs this game to keep jostling in the middle of the Big East pack. But the results are what they are, and the Johnnies and Chris Mullin continue their quest for their first conference win.
Mullin knows the losses can take their toll. Per the University, he said that “you have to digest it, learn from it, and then you have to come out with a positive attitude.”
He continued, “I think we need better focus throughout the game. Turnovers in the first few minutes are as important as ones at the end of the game. All those things add up, so just keeping attention on the importance of each possession. We have to maintain our positive attitude, our discipline and dedication.”
The packed crowd at Hinkle - all wearing white tomorrow - will work hard to break that discipline and positive attitude, reminding St. John’s of just how far away they have been in the last three contests in Indianapolis.
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (10-11 I 0-9 Big East) versus Butler Bulldogs (14-7 | 4-4 Big East)
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indainapolis, IN
When: Saturday, January 27, 2018 | 2:30 PM
TV: FS1 | Watch online
Audio: 570 AM WNYM; TuneIn Radio
Last Meeting: St. John’s, who has lost five of the last six to the Bulldogs, gave up 110 points on the way to a thorough beating in Indianapolis. They have lost by 24, 20 and 23 in the past three seasons at Hinkle. That is not Midwestern hospitality.
Last five games: L L W L W
The Bulldogs are led by former player LaVall Jordan in his first year, taking over from Chris Holtmann; Jordan had coached at Wisconsin-Milwaukee the previous season after being an assistant at Michigan, Iowa and Butler.
His current team, left over from Holtmann’s tenure, features a pair of talented scorers, a decent amount of muscle, and as always, a fair amount of that old Butler grit.
But there are flaws; the team that outshot #1 Villanova on the way to a 101-93 home win also were stuck in the mud with Georgetown into double overtime. And Butler has struggled to take out other top teams...displaying some disturbing defensive tendencies along the way.
Butler’s defense is the Big East’s worst so far in conference play. Of course, they have faced the conference’s best teams, but there are a number of factors that allow teams to be a little extra good on offense against Butler. The Bulldogs don’t block lots of shots, aren’t particularly good in transition defense (as I have seen them, at least) and have allowed a high percentage of made three-point shots.
Let it be said that sometimes three-point shots just fall, independent of the defense. The key to effective three-point defense is not allowing those shots (which St. John’s struggles with). Butler has kept opponents from clean three-point looks and driven them towards long two-pointers, though they will foul.
The offense has been potent, turnover-free, and good at generating solid shots inside the arc. Jordan’s Bulldogs are not averse to the pull-up jumper, and will run to the rim in transition.
Watch for senior Kelan Martin (#30), the 6’7” wing; he scored 37 on Marquette and missed double figures only twice this season. His outside jumper has been hotter in Big East play.
At guard is Kamar Baldwin (#3), a fast guard who is sometimes charged with ballhandling, but is better as a slashing scorer. He can provide some steals, get his own shot and has range. He is joined by Aaron Thompson (#2), a pass-first point guard who has shot 0/3 from outside the arc (and 37/87 inside); he can defend well.
Paul Jorgensen (#5) transferred from George Washington as a scattershot scorer, but with Butler, he has been very effective. The New City, NY guard is shooting 38% from outside the arc this season.
His shooting is complemented from Sean McDermott (#22) off the bench. The 6’6” wing is smooth and effective, hitting 40% from outside the arc but finding ways to get shots at the rim off of cuts on occasion. He does not create off the dribble.
Inside, the Bulldogs have competent, experienced players in Tyker Wideman (#4), a 6’8” 240 pound senior who crashes the offensive glass and blocks shots, shooting a high percentage deep in the paint and at the line, and Nate Fowler (#51), ibid. Fowler, almost as effective at the rim, is less adept at carving out quick space but will post up. He is also good for an attempt from long range on occasion.
Keys to the Game
Defend the perimeter/ pressure. St. John’s best skill is defensive pressure. Butler will expect pressure and seek to take advantage, but the red Storm need to use their best asset to try and force turnovers and poor passes, denying shooters comfortable catches/ spaces to shoot.
Hold serve inside. The Bulldogs are a solid rebounding team that don’t always play their height. The Red Storm’s forwards (Tariq Owens and Marvin Clark II) need to stay sharp and keep Butler from getting second chances (while stealing a few opportunities of their own)
Shoot well. At a certain point, we must acknowledge that St. John’s will take hasty shots, confident in an ability to hit threes that comes and goes. The team needs to keep the ball moving, keep the opponent running and chasing, and then start making shots late.
Heck, let’s go with positivity again. St. John’s gets their first win in Big East play, 79-75.