Playing in one of college basketball’s toughest environments, St. John’s cut a 22-point second half deficit to just four in the final minute of play, but proved unable to completely close the gap, falling to Butler, 80-71, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
St. John’s (15-4, 3-4 BIG EAST) outscored Butler 24-8 down the stretch to help make it a two possession game with six minutes to play, but scored just three points over the next four minutes as the Johnnies were unable to capitalize on some crucial stops late in the contest.
The Red Storm shot just 29 percent from three-point range (7-of-24), more than 10 points below its season average. 71 points tied the Johnnies’ season low output, as the team averaged 83 points a game entering the weekend. In three of the team’s four losses this season during BIG EAST play, the Red Storm has tallied exactly 71 points.
Mustapha Heron and Shamorie Ponds led the way for St. John’s with 20 points apiece. Heron sank six of his 13 field goal attempts in addition to grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. Ponds shot 8-of-19 from the floor and 2-of-9 from three-point range, both of which were well below his season average.
Marvin Clark II narrowly missed a double-double with 10 points and eight boards. Over his last three games, the redshirt senior is averaging 10.0 rebounds per outing.
Justin Simon tallied eight points and a game-high five assists while LJ Figueroa finished with nine points and five rebounds before fouling out.
Sedee Keita played 15 minutes, scoring four points and pulling down a season-high six boards.
Kamar Baldwin registered 30 points and eight rebounds for Butler (12-7, 3-3 BIG EAST).
With the score tied at eight five minutes into the action, St. John’s went 4:09 without a bucket and saw Butler rattle off a 14-2 run to open up a 22-10 lead near the midway mark of the half.
The Bulldogs continued to find the bottom of the basket over the next several minutes, moving ahead by as many as 13, 29-16, with just under eight minutes remaining in the opening stanza.
St. John’s responded and trimmed its deficit down to eight, but Butler dealt another series of blows before entering the locker room with a 39-27 edge.
A Joey Brunk dunk opened the second half, but the Johnnies quickly ran off 7-0 run to make it a seven point game two minutes into the period. Butler answered with a 9-0 spurt of its own over the next minute and a half en route to opening a 22-point lead.
Facing a deficit of gargantuan proportions, the Red Storm responded with a 12-0 run in the span of less than three minutes to make it a 10-point game with 11:26 to play. Figueroa led the way with five points on the tear for St. John’s.
A Figueroa layup brought the Johnnies within six, 66-60, with 6:25 to play, but Butler poured in four unanswered to push its edge back to double digits following a technical foul on Figueroa. Clark appeared to come with a steal but was whistled for a foul on the play. Figueroa came into possession of the loose ball and slammed it off the ground to garner the call.
Trailing by 10 with 2:26 to play, St. John’s poured in six unanswered to cut its deficit to four in the closing minute. The Bulldogs, however, made five of their last six free throw attempts to seal the victory.
St. John’s will have the next week off from competition before playing host to Georgetown on Jan. 27 at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for noon on FOX.
POSTGAME QUOTES: St. John’s vs. Butler
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin and forward Marvin Clark II spoke to the media after Saturday’s loss at Butler, 80-71.
Jan. 19, 2019
St. John’s Head Coach Chris Mullin
On tonight’s game…
“I thought our energy was not up to par. At the start of the second half, we fought back well but we need consistent energy.”
On having a consistent effort…
“I’m not really sure but clearly its inconsistent energy, not lack of effort. When you come back from down 22 late in the game, it’s obviously not lack of effort.”
On Butler Forward Jordan Tucker…
“He’s a good player. I’ve watched him since high school. He’s a heck of a shooter. He’s obviously a guy who puts up threes and makes a play off the dribble. That was one of those mental errors we made. One guy sitting in the corner and shooting threes is a mental mistake and not sticking to the game plan.”
On the team’s execution…
“I felt everything was lethargic and soft. We played back on our heels and they took advantage of it.”
St. John’s Forward Marvin Clark II
On the team’s effort…
“Coach [Mullin] hit the spike on the head. We didn’t play great collectively as a team for 40 minutes. I thought the passion we needed to win was good enough. I’m not sure why it wasn’t there. It was there in spurts. On the road, we have to get better. We’ve been great at home but on the road we have to be a little better, more lucky, more focused and more eager.
On the next five games…
“No concern. We have the personnel to compete and beat anyone. We just have to grow and I think we’ll be fine.
On Coach Mullin’s postgame speech…
“He told us ‘don’t take the game for granted.’ We took the whole first half for granted. We didn’t feel like we came out to play especially after we went down by 22 points. He said ‘stop taking your possessions for granted.’”
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