Back home in Queens, the Red Storm look to right the ship against a team that, like the Red Storm, has stumbled out of the gates in the Big East.
The Butler Bulldogs come with a team that may be even newer than the Red Storm, with a trio of seniors flanked by a number of freshman in major roles. But the Bulldogs, for their faults, have shown a toughness and grit that will make them a tough out.
St. John’s, meanwhile, is coming off of a loss at Creighton that exposed their vulnerabilities stopping teams that shoot well, despite Julian Champagnie’s career-high performance. Can the Red Storm bring a better defensive performance against Butler?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (6-6, 1-5 Big East) vs. Butler Bulldogs (3-6, 2-4 Big East)
When: Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 7:00 PM
Where: Carnesecca Arena, Queens, NY
TV: FS1 | online
Recent history: St. John’s has lost the last two games to Butler. The Red Storm’s last two wins over the Bulldogs were both overtime affairs.
The Bulldogs were expected to be young this season; still, they have seen a number of injuries to players who should have helped, and those absences may have taken toll.
Currently, the squad plays like the short, inexperienced team that they are. They play slowly and deliberately on offense. Scoring inside the arc has been underwhelming — which makes sense given their lack of size.
This may be a luck issue, but the Bulldogs manage to both be solid at drawing fouls and one of the worst foul shooting teams in the country (connecting on 62% of their shots from the free throw line). Butler has some three-point shooting skill, execute well, and have some quickness with the ball.
On defense, they play strong, high-effort man defense and recover well, keep teams from running in transition, and rebound on the defensive glass at a high level. Do not expect flashy turnovers or blocks — they want stops. They do not wilt and will stick around to make sure the game is done before they quit.
Butler’s last win saw them down two points to Georgetown and then hold them to a bunch of jump shots over the final four minutes of the game, holding the Hoyas scoreless while scoring ten points to close out the game.
Undersized 6’7” senior forward Bryce Nze (#10) is a solid force inside, a heady player who draws fouls and gets to rebounds on both sides of the floor. He is a strong-bodied rebounder and has good footwork, but his range is at the rim — despite the fact that he shoots and makes the occasional three.
Bryce Golden (#33), a 6’9” junior (with a brother who plays for Richmond) is a big body. He’s an ok/ unspectacular rebounder for his size. He is ok to shoot out to the three-point line, though he is 11/59 from beyond the arc in his career, with all makes last season; he is 0/11 this year. (He’s bound to make one.) With the injury woes, St. John’s could see freshman Myles Wilmoth (#5), from Rockland County, NY, on the floor. Sophomore Markeese Hastings (#24) is 6’7” and may also see time.
Senior point guard Aaron Thompson (#2) will be playing his third game back from a knee sprain; he has played 30+ minutes in both games since coming back. His range is at layups at the rim and runners, but he executes the offense and makes some sharp passes.
Grad transfer Jair Bolden, (#52), from Brooklyn, is a solid shooter outside the arc. He is 7/24 (29%) inside the arc in Big East play. Freshman Chuck Harris (#3) may miss on two-point jumpers (4/22 when away from the basket), but he is nailing 43% of his triples. Freshman guard Myles Tate (#12) is very quick and could be a problem for the Red Storm. He has good passing skill but also good vision on defense, jumping lanes for steals.
Injuries: Freshman forward Jakobe Coles is out for a few weeks with a knee injury.
Keys to the Game
Don’t give them easy chances. St. John’s needs to keep the turnover rate low, keep balance on defense in transition, and not fall for the kind of mistakes that draw offensive fouls.
Set feet and shoot. St. John’s is going to want to play to their strengths and drive; Butler is not going to allow many opportunities for easy buckets. The Johnnies will need to run their offense and make some tough, contested shots in rhythm at some point in this game.
Harassment. Posh Alexander and the Johnnies need to force miscues and hurried shots. The timing has to be right; if not, attempts at harassment will lead to open shots from the Bulldogs and an offensive, high-scoring game.
A game St. John’s needs to have, and maybe one of the only games where they will be favored the rest of the season. St. John’s gets it done in a sloppy game, 72-69.