Butler, St. John’s limp into Big East clash

NCAA Men's Basketball

While Butler struggles to score at times and capably defends opponents, the reverse is true for St. John’s.

The contrasting styles will be on display Tuesday night when Butler visits St. John’s in a matchup of struggling Big East opponents in New York.

Butler (3-6, 2-4 Big East) enters Tuesday averaging 63.7 points, which is not only is the worst scoring average in the 11-team conference but also marks the Bulldogs as the only team below 70 per game. Conversely, the Bulldogs are allowing 69 points per game, which is the fourth-best figure in the league.

Butler has yet to score more than 73 points in a game this season, and has yet to allow more than 80.

The Bulldogs have been held under 64 points in the past four games since getting a 70-63 win over Providence on Dec. 23. Their latest loss was Saturday’s 72-60 setback to Connecticut, which represented Butler’s third-biggest defeat behind an 85-66 loss at Vilanova and a 71-55 setback against Providence.

The Bulldogs shot 46.7 percent and held Connecticut to 43.1 percent from the field. They were doomed by allowing 47.6 percent (10 of 21) from the 3-point line and committing 15 turnovers.

“I’m disappointed in this one; UConn played with more energy and we weren’t as passionate as we needed to be,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “We dug ourselves an early hole and never could get all the way back. I thought the start of both halves was where the game was won.”

Butler is led by Aaron Thompson, who averages 14.3 points on 58.3 percent shooting. He scored 14 on Saturday.

St. John’s (6-6, 1-5) is second in the Big East with 80.5 points per game but is allowing 80.8 points, 11th in the Big East ahead of DePaul, which has played just four games due to COVID-19 issues.

Despite often playing pressure defense, the Red Storm have allowed at least 90 points in four games. The latest instance was a 97-79 loss at Creighton on Saturday when St. John’s allowed 56 points by halftime.

On Saturday, the Red Storm allowed Creighton to shoot 59.5 percent in the first half and 54.4 percent overall. It marked the fifth time St. John’s allowed an opponent to shoot at least 50 percent and occurred after it held Xavier to 37.5 percent shooting in a 69-61 loss on Wednesday.

“We can’t rely on our offense to beat teams,” St. John’s forward Julian Champagnie said. “That’s not what we’re going to be about. We’re going to have to be a defensive team.”

Champagnie scored 33 points and is the Big East’s leading scorer at 21 points per game. On Saturday, he had little help offensively as Marcellus Earlington (13 points) was the only other player in double figures as Posh Alexander, Greg Williams Jr., Vince Cole, and Rasheem Dunn combined for just 17 points.

–Field Level Media

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