St. John’s continues their midwestern road trip with a game against the Butler Bulldogs tonight. The Red Storm, who gave up an average of 100 points in their last two road losses, hope to recapture the magic that brought them a win over UConn almost a month ago.
St. John’s has only won twice at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, however, and the recent skid for the Johnnies does not raise confidence. On the other hand, Butler has struggled as much as St. John’s. And St. John’s handled the game last time out, getting lots of good contributions from AJ Storr and Rafael Pinzon in that contest.
Will road woes and unfamiliarity win? Or will St. John’s, rested from a regular travel day and smarting from the performance against Xavier, respond against Butler and play at a high level?
Who: St. John’s Red Storm (14-9, 4-9 Big East) vs Butler Bulldogs (11-13, 3-10 Big East)
When: Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 8:30 PM
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Odds: Butler, -1.5
Last meeting: St. John’s handled Butler, 77-61 at Carnesecca Arena.
Butler has struggled mightily in recent Big East games. In the past five contests, and in seven of their last eight, Butler has found themselves 10 or more points down at halftime, including their last game against St. John’s.
Before writing off the Bulldogs as a weak opponent, note that they have been slowly improving. Against Marquette, a top-15 team that has a top-five offense nationally, Butler was better than the final score. In fact, except for a bad stretch in the last minute of the first half, Butler played Marquette evenly, working off of their defense.
The Bulldogs forced an opposing team with excellent ball movement to turn the ball over on nearly 20% of their possessions, and kept the Golden Eagles below their season averages on twos and threes.
Butler has been pesky on defense. When they are focused and composed, they are hard to break down, and clearly know their opponent tendencies. The Bulldogs make teams slow down, so the breakneck pace of the game against Xavier will be in the rear view for St. John’s
On offense, though, Butler has struggled inside the arc. Only center Manny Bates shoots better than 50% inside the arc, and three regulars — guards Chuck Harris, Eric Hunter and Jayden Taylor — all shoot under 40% inside the arc. They choose to get back on defense, but even allowing for that, they are awful at getting second chance opportunities.
If things go well, this is a game for Joel Soriano to feast.
St. John’s needs to watch out for Simas Lukosius and Ali Ali, both of whom would love to put up strong performances from outside of the arc against a Red Storm team that sometimes forgets to defend the corners.
Keys to the Game
Let Soriano feast. Quiet recent games from Joel Soriano have come from a lack of service in to the big man, but also fast offense and hasty shots from the perimeter. In tonight’s game, working inside-out should be the priority.
Nothing easy for the Butler guards. St. John’s has allowed guards, forwards, and everyone between to score in bunches inside the arc. The Red Storm has to do better at not allowing easy layups or runouts to the guards — while also keeping them from pulling up behind the line.
Cherish the ball you have. The season-long problem of turnovers — bad ballhandling, wild drives, passes to the third row — have a real chance of giving Butler a lot of hope. The Red Storm have to be better with ball protections.
St. John’s wins a game on the road against Butler, and free throws make the end nervous for everyone. 75-73, Red Storm victory.