After wrapping non-conference play with a thrilling win over No. 16/17 Arizona in San Francisco, the St. John’s men’s basketball team will take on its second straight ranked foe when it welcomes No. 11/10 Butler to Carnesecca Arena for a New Year’s Eve showdown.
The contest, which is set to tip at 7:30 p.m., will be broadcast on FS1 and 970 AM WNYM. Dave Sims and Jim Spanarkel will handle the television broadcasting duties while John Minko and Vin Parise will call the action on radio. The audio broadcast will also be available on TuneIn and Sirius XM.
Select tickets to the contest are still available for the special New Year’s Eve discount price of $20.20. Fans can secure their seats at this rate by clicking here or entering the promo code “2020” at RedStormTix.com. St. John’s is also pleased to welcome local high school students to the game free of charge on Tuesday night. Eligible students must simply show their valid high school ID at the Carnesecca Arena student entrance for one free ticket to the game while supplies last.
St. John’s, which received three votes in Monday’s Associated Press poll, enters conference play with a record of 11-2 after topping the Wildcats in the Basketball Hall of Fame Al Attles Classic at Chase Center on Dec. 21. Mike Anderson’s 11 non-conference wins in his debut season at the helm of the Red Storm are the highest such total by a first-year St. John’s head coach since the BIG EAST was formed in 1979. The previous record of nine was set by Mike Jarvis’ Johnnies in 1998-99, a season that ended with the Red Storm’s sixth appearance all-time in the Elite Eight.
The Arizona win improved the Red Storm’s record to 6-1 in its last seven regular season games against ranked opponents dating back to the team’s win over No. 4/5 Duke on Feb. 3, 2018, at Madison Square Garden. Three of those six wins came against opponents ranked inside the top 10 and all six were against foes ranked 16 or higher in the Associated Press poll. A win on Tuesday night would give the Johnnies their highest rated win on campus since taking down No. 11 Villanova on Jan. 24, 1983.
The Red Storm will look to improve to 3-0 this season in Quad 1 opportunities when it takes t he floor against Butler. The Red Storm topped West Virginia at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7 before holding off a late push to handle Arizona in San Francisco. The Johnnies are the only team this season to get the better of the now-no. 16 Mountaineers, who maintained at no. 9 in the NET rankings after taking down No. 2/2 Ohio State on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
Butler (12-1) checked in at no. 4 in Monday’s release of the NET, the highest ranking of the nine BIG EAST teams currently situated in the top 53. St. John’s sits at no. 49 in the NET, 24 spots ahead of its position last Selection Sunday when the Red Storm heard its named called for the 29th time in program history.
Nine of the league’s 10 teams received votes in Monday’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.
LJ Figueroa posted 16 of his team-high 21 points in the first half against Arizona en route to MVP honors at The Al Attles Classic. Figueroa, the team’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game this season, helped the Red Storm make up for the absence of Mustapha Heron, the squad’s second leading scorer (15.0 ppg) who missed his second straight outing after spraining his right ankle against Brown on Dec. 10. Heron is still considered day-to-day heading into the BIG EAST opener.
Rasheem Dunn was one of two Johnnies alongside Figueroa to finish in double figures against Arizona, tallying eight of his 14 points at the free throw line. Dunn has been incredibly consistent for the Red Storm since becoming eligible in mid-November, reaching double figures eight times in 10 chances and averaging 11.4 points per game despite scoring no more than 14 in any one contest.
St. John’s jumped out to a sizeable lead in the first half against Arizona thanks in large part to its ability to force turnovers. The Wildcats, who entered the contest coughing up just 11.7 possessions per game, surrendered 10 opening-period turnovers against the Red Storm’s relentless defensive pressure. The Johnnies will be looking to accomplish something similar against a Butler squad that ranks sixth in Division I with just 10.4 miscues per outing.
Six of those 10 first-half Arizona turnovers were the result of St. John’s steals, a category in which the Red Storm rank ninth nationally (9.9 spg) through games played on Sunday. In his 17 seasons as a head coach prior to taking over at St. John’s in April, Anderson’s team led the nation in steals four times and finished inside the top 30 on 14 separate occasions.
Butler comes to Queens with just one blemish on its resume, a one-point loss to then-No. 11/11 Baylor in Waco on Dec. 10. The loss was one of just two for the BIG EAST in the inaugural BIG EAST/Big 12 Battle. The Bulldogs suffered no shortage of quality wins during non-conference play, as six of their 12 triumphs came against high-major opponents with four of those victories coming on the road or at neutral sites.
The Bulldogs have been one of the nation’s top defensive teams, allowing just 53.6 points per outing, good enough for fourth in all of Division I and tops in the BIG EAST by an average of more than 10 points per game. Only four of Butler’s 13 non-conference opponents cracked the 60-point plateau with Stanford posting a season-best 67 points.
Butler and St. John’s could not be more diametrically opposite in terms of style, as the Johnnies rank 19th nationally in adjusted tempo (75.3 possessions per game) while the Bulldogs (65.5) check in at no. 331 out of 353 in that category.
Senior guard Kamar Baldwin has been a stalwart for Butler during non-conference play, leading the team with 13.9 points per game. Two other Bulldogs are averaging double figures, as Sean McDermott has posted 11.3 points per outing and Bryce Nze has chipped in 10.2
The Red Storm will look to win its fourth straight game in Queens against Butler, a streak that began with a 76-73 win over the No. 13/13 Bulldogs on Dec. 29, 2016. St. John’s has needed extra time in each of its last two home wins against Butler, beating the Bulldogs in double overtime on Feb. 28, 2018, before needing just five additional minutes to down Butler this past Feb. 12. Heron netted 28 points in that most recent win over Butler, including a 6-for-6 showing from the free throw line in overtime.
After their New Year’s Eve clash with Butler, the Johnnies will embark on a two-game BIG EAST road swing, traveling to Xavier on Jan. 5 before squaring off with Georgetown on Jan. 8.
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