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St. John’s at Butler: preview, gametime, keys to the game

St. John’s plays another road game against a beatable Butler team.

Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tomorrow, St. John’s will stay on the road when they take on the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Johnnies will be playing their fourth game in eight days, and are looking to beat a Butler team who sits just below them in Big East standings. The matchup will be the first time the teams face off this season, as St. John’s were scheduled to have a home game on December 23, which was postponed February 18 for COVID reasons.

Butler comes into the game sitting at ninth in conference standings, and they have struggled to find wins in Big East play. They are coming off a close loss to Xavier on the road and some wins against Creighton and Georgetown at home, and are looking to build off this solid play against the Red Storm.

St. John’s did what was necessary against Georgetown in their 90-77 game, and were greatly helped by Julian Champagnie, who broke out of his offensive slump with a 27 point performance.

After losing four of the five games they played before Georgetown, the Johnnies need to capitalize on the opportunity to get a road win against a team they are ahead of in the standings if they have hopes for the postseason. But playing Butler on the road has resulted in seven straight defeats — many by double digits — so the Butler game is no gimme.

Game Information

Who: St. John’s Red Storm (12-9, 4-6 Big East) vs Butler Bulldogs (11-11, 4-7 Big East)

When: Saturday, February 5, 2022, 12:00 PM

Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

TV: FS1

Odds: St. John’s -2

Last season: Both teams won the home game, with the Johnnies taking Butler to overtime in their loss.

Scouting Butler

The Bulldogs come into the matchup with an 11-11 record and a 4-7 conference record, and currently have a KenPom ranking of 136 and a NET Ranking of 127, compared to rankings of 87 and 90. Their conference wins have come against DePaul, Creighton, and Georgetown twice, and other than that have struggled against Big East teams.

Butler, who is coached by Lavall Jordan, who is in his fifth season as head coach of the program. They are very similar to last year’s team, returning 96.1% of last year’s minutes and 97.2% of last year’s scoring.

The Bulldogs are a very methodical offensive team and a gritty defensive team, only scoring 62.4 points a game and allowing 64.2 points a game. They are one of the slowest teams in the country, which heavily contrasts the Red Storm’s uptempo and fast style of play. They are also a very inefficient team, ranking in the bottom 60 of Division I teams in terms of field goal percentage and three point percentage.

Butler is a team without a true star player, as they have no one who averages more than 11 points per game. They are a very deep team, but recently Lavall Jordan has cut down on his rotation, benching Jair Bolden and Ty Groce against Xavier and only using seven players.

The leading scorer for Butler is 6-2 sophomore guard Chuck Harris, who has started 10 out of 20 games, and averaged 11.0 points and 3.0 rebounds, scoring those points rather inefficiently with a field goal percentage of 35.6%

Harris is joined in the backcourt by 6-5 senior Bo Hodges and 6-2 grad student Aaron Thompson. Hodges has only played in eight games this season due to injury, and has averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds since his return. Thompson has been a steady presence in the Bulldog starting lineup this season, where he has averaged 7.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals.

In the Butler froncourt, 6-9 senior Bryce Golden and 6-7 grad student Bryce Nze start. Golden averages 9.0 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 54.5% from the floor, and has started in all 22 games for the Bulldogs. Nze has missed a bit of time this year, but has started all 15 games he’s played in, averaging 7.8 points and 5.9 rebounds.

In the Xavier game, the only two players to come off the bench for Butler were 6-6 freshman guard Simas Lukosius and 6-4 freshman guard Jayden Taylor. Lukosius has come off the bench most of this season, posting averages of 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. Taylor has played in all 22 games, starting 18 of them, and has averaged 9.0 points and 2.8 rebounds.

It will be interesting to see if Lavall Jordan gives any playing time to 6-3 grad guard Jair Bolden and 6-8 grad forward Ty Groce. Both Bolden and Groce received significant playing time up until the last four games, where they have fallen out of favor with Jordan and neither have made an appearance of more than 10 minutes.

Keys to the Game

Control the inside. Butler is not a big team, and the Johnnies should look to control the glass and get points in the paint. Joel Soriano had one of his best games in a St. John’s uniform against Georgetown with 14 points and 9 rebounds on a perfect 6-6 from the field, and another big game out of him would be big in a Red Storm victory.

Play fast. Controlling the pace of the game will be really important for St. John’s against a slow-paced Butler team. If the Johnnies can make Butler play their game with fast pace and quick baskets, that should give them a good shot at a win.

A good defensive effort. Butler is not a very strong offensive team, and the Red Storm should look to prevent them from being in the game through their defense, forcing turnovers and missed shots.

Prediction

St. John’s plays well and beats Butler 75-68.