Leading by one at the half, the St. John’s men’s basketball team struggled to keep pace in the latter stanza, falling to Butler, 77-55, at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
After shooting 41.9 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from three in the first half, the Red Storm (15-15, 4-13 BIG EAST) sank just 31.0 percent of its total shots and 22.2 percent of its three-point tries in the final 20 minutes. Butler, on the other hand, converted on 56.7 percent of its field goal tries after the intermission, including six triples.
Julian Champagnie was a bright spot for the Johnnies, as the freshman scored a season-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting. The Brooklyn native registered his highest scoring total as a member of the Red Storm by halftime, netting 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the opening 20 minutes. The Bishop Loughlin product drained all four of his three-point attempts in the first half.
Coming off the best offense performance of his career against then-No. 10 Creighton on Sunday, Greg Williams Jr. finished in double figures for the third consecutive outing. The sophomore tallied 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting and grabbed five rebounds.
LJ Figueroa added nine points while Marcellus Earlington chipped in eight points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds.
Following a back-and-forth start, the Johnnies ripped off a 9-0 run to take a 16-10 lead with just over seven minutes gone in the game. Champagnie kicked off the spurt by draining his second triple of evening before driving the baseline and throwing down a two-handed slam. Earlington then added a pair of free throws and a layup.
Butler shaved the St. John’s lead down to one, 19-18, a few minutes later before the Johnnies rattled off another run, this time of the 9-2 variety, to take their largest lead of the game, 28-20, following Champagnie’s fourth trey of the opening half.
Leading by five, 32-27, following a David Caraher midrange jumper with two and a half minutes remaining until the break, St. John’s missed its last four field goal tries of the period but managed to hang onto a 32-31 lead heading into the locker.
A Sean McDermott triple just over a minute into the second half gave Butler a 36-34 lead, its first in more than 16 minutes of game action.
With the game tied at 39 following a deep Figueroa three with 16:29 to play, the Bulldogs outscored St. John’s, 18-2, over the next seven and a half minutes.
Butler built its lead to as many as 24 in the closing minutes of the contest.
St. John’s will close the 2019-20 regular season on Saturday afternoon at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” when it plays host to Marquette. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. on FSN (YES Network) and 970 AM WNYM.
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