The Butler Bulldogs travel to St. John’s for their conference opener. St. John’s are 6-7 on the season while Butler still sits at the #13 spot in college basketball with an 11-1 record.
Butler is coming off of a big win against Indiana in which Kelan Martin unleashed a massive scoring output to outpace the nearly equally massive scoring output of Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr.
St. John’s is coming off of blowout win against last year’s final four member Syracuse. They won by 33 points.
St. John’s is lead by freshman guard Shamorie Ponds who averages over 17 points per game and leads the Big East in three pointers made. Last week he was named Big East Freshman of the week for his 21 points and seven assists in St. John’s dominant win over Syracuse. In games where Ponds scores 20+, his squad is 4-1. Butler, and specifically Kamar Baldwin, will have to contain this freshman if the Dawgs want to come out on top.
The Red Storm’s second leading scorer is another freshman guard, Marcus LoVett. LoVett is a versatile guard, averaging 16 points as well as four rebounds and four assists per game. The freshman missed time with an injury earlier in the season, but now is back with a couple of games under his belt and should be ready for action.
Including Pond and LoVett, St. John’s has five players that are shooting over 40% from behind the arc. The Bulldogs will have to lock down the perimeter and shut down their main scoring outlets.
On the other end of the floor, Butler will have to overcome St. John’s defensive minded big men. Forwards Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe have 35 and 34 blocks on the season respectively- which turns into almost 6 blocks per game for the pair.
Despite their record, St. John’s is a solid team with players that are capable of hanging in there against formidable opponents. They lost by single digits to the now 12-1 Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minnesota. They lost by single digits to then 24th ranked Michigan State. They lost by single digits to VCU on Thanksgiving day.
While the Bulldogs definitely have the upper hand, St. John’s is definitely a worthy opponent, and is a must win as the Conference opener.
Players to Watch:
Kelan Martin was back at his scoring ways against Indiana last week and should continue to lead the Dawgs to victory in conference games as well. The veteran scorer has had experience against Big East teams and should have no problem against St. John’s.
Kamar Baldwin should see considerable playing time against St. John’s for his defensive abilities. However, more minutes also means more scoring opportunities for the freshman guard. Look for Baldwin’s floater to come in handy against St. John’s shot blocking forwards.
Shamorie Ponds has become the team leader in the wake of LoVett’s injury. Look for the freshman guard to carry the team offensively against Butler’s weak backcourt defense.
6’ 11” Tariq Owens leads the Red Storm in blocks, and is one of St. Johns’ strongest interior players. Look for him to make an impact, especially on the defensive end.
Photo Credit: Indy Star