Hinkle Fieldhouse has not been a happy hunting ground for the St. John’s Red Storm. The Johnnies were able to get a win in their first-ever conference trip to Hinkle in 2014, but that was not a sign of things to come. The Red Storm would lose all seven of their next trips to Indy.
Today that voodoo and losing streak came to an end. The Red Storm managed to hold Butler off in a tight game by a final score of 75-72.
There was a lot of back and forth action, as both teams were up for it today as if to prove they still had a lot of life left in them. Both teams shot the ball well with shooting percentages well over 50 percent at the half. The deciding factor came down to who could gain the lead with incremental margins, such as getting the most out of their defense as well as the best out of their foul shooting today.
Surprisingly the team who got the best out of their foul shooting was St. John’s. Yes, the same St. John’s who are dead last in foul shooting in the conference. They managed to shoot 84.0 percent from the line in the victory. It provided an added boost especially as the Johnnies’ three-point shooting was off for much of the game. It also countered Butler’s 80 percent foul shooting today, which by itself is interesting as the Bulldogs are not a great foul shooting team either.
Leading the way for the Johnnies was Julian Champagnie. Champagnie is back in the swing of things and today finished the game with a team-leading mark of 21 points. Champagnie got there on 6-of-17 shooting and a near-impeccable 9-of-10 at the foul line. Champagnie led in rebounds with eight and overall has appeared to make adjustments in his game. He showed that off against the Bulldogs by playing off the screen to get spacing and shooting opportunities.
Champagnie was not the only Johnnie to have a great game today. Aaron Wheeler continued to make an impact with 13 points and a perfect 5-of-5 at the line. Joel Soriano had a 12-point game on a perfect 6-6 shooting, and Posh Alexander posted a 12-point effort led in assists with five. He could have had more but had to be taken out at the five-minute mark in the second half due to a foot and ankle injury. It was a big loss for the Red Storm, but one that they surprisingly managed well.
On the Butler side of things, the Bulldogs played well today. On another Saturday afternoon most likely would have walked away winners in this game. They had the lead for large stretches of the game and at times appeared to be on the cusp of breaking away. But they couldn’t escape St. John’s from coming back into the game.
Bo Hodges led the way with 22 points in the game. The Bulldogs also got excellent production today out of Bryce Nze, who had a 14 point game on 7-of-11 shooting. Aaron Thompson had nine points on the game but his ultimate contribution to Butler today was a game-high seven assists.
With this game in the books, St. John’s moves to 5-6 in Big East play and a tie for eighth place in the conference standings with Seton Hall. There is still plenty of basketball left to play and hopefully, this win and the one against Georgetown on Thursday are signs that the Red Storm are making a turnaround.
As for Butler, the slide continues as the Bulldogs drop to 4-8 in Big East play and the signs of turning things around look bleaker with each passing game. At the moment they are still projected to lose each of their remaining games in conference play. Hopefully, they are able to buck that projection.
Next up for St. John’s is a Tuesday night clash against Villanova, while Butler squares off with Creighton that same night.