St. John’s traveled Hinkle Fieldhouse, a place of perpetual suffering for the Red Storm, and knocked down their free throws late to hold onto a win over Butler, 75-72.
As a reprieve from constantly playing ranked teams, St. John’s got back to back games against a pair of teams at the bottom of the conference—Georgetown and Butler. The Georgetown game was largely uncompetitive. However, possibly due to the single day between game, it was a dogfight in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse like it always is.
In the first half, the offense was successful. St. John’s average 1.242 points per possession before the break. To put that in context, coming into today, Purdue leads the country in points per possession with 1.206. Such great production occurred despite hitting only one of the eight three-point attempts. Joel Soriano and Aaron Wheeler were the biggest contributors to the team’s efficient possessions. The pair combined for 13 points on a perfect 5 of 5 from the floor, not to mentioned the combined 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
The Red Storm defense is what kept Butler in the game. The Bulldogs shot just under 47% from deep in the half, and it was not a case where the team just got hot. The Johnnies were not flying around on defense like they tend to do. The press looked more like token pressure without any sort of intensity and that lack of fire carried over into the half-court defense and close-outs of jump shots.
The lack of intensity also showed in St. John’s transition numbers. Butler only turned the ball over 5 times, which led to 6 points off turnovers for the Johnnies and only 2 fast break points.
As a result, both teams went into the half tied at 41. Even if St. John’s played with a lackadaisical full court effort for the remainder of the game, just cleaning up the halfcourt defense should lead to a blowout of the Butler Bulldogs.
After the half, however, Butler came out as the more intense team. The Bulldogs held St. John’s without a field goal for nearly 3 minutes while Butler went on a 7-0 run. At that point, the intensity picked up for the Red Storm. The Johnnies chipped away at the five-point deficit and caught the Bulldogs thanks to a three-minute effort holding Butler without a bucket.
As soon as the Red Storm found themselves back in the game, the offense began settling for contested, midrange jumpers and giving up uncontested looks from deep to Butler. One three by the Bulldogs’ Bryce Golden felt particularly painful putting Butler up again by four.
Such offense by the Johnnies resulted in another stretch without a field goal, this time for nearly five minutes. However, getting to the free throw line, knocking enough of them down, and a Wheeler jumper tied the game back up for St. John’s.
Up by one with possession of the ball with less than 30 seconds to go, all St. John’s had to do was knock down its free throws and not allow Butler to take an uncontested three. To make matters worse, Posh was pulled with five minutes to go with an apparent ankle injury.
The Red Storm had to burn a pair of timeouts after they struggled to inbound the ball and get it over halfcourt. Butler eventually fouled Julian Champagnie twice, and Julian knocked down all four free throws helping St. John’s secure a 75-72 victory over Butler.
St. John’s Red Storm
Julian Champagnie: 21 point (6/17 FG, 0/4 3PT), 8 rebounds, 1 assist
Aaron Wheeler: 13 point (4/6 FG, 0/2 3PT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Joel Soriano: 12 point (6/6 FG), 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Bo Hodges: 22 point (9/14 FG, 4/7 3PT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Bryce Nze: 14 point (7/11 FG, 0/3 3PT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists