Butler returns to Hinkle Fieldhouse in the search for the Dawgs’ 20th regular season win. The game is against St. John’s, a team that handed Butler their second loss of the season in earlier December. The contest will be at 8:30 ET and on FS1.
In their previous matchup, fantastic guard play by St. John’s was the difference maker that kept Butler from pulling away.
Freshman guard Shamorie Ponds put on a show in St. John’s bigtime home win, scoring 26 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. And Ponds isn’t even St. John’s best offensive player.
Another freshman star for St. John’s is Indiana native Marcus LoVett. He is averaging 17.3 points per game, and also a fair amount of assists (Lovett ranks 5th in the conference for PPG and APG). In these teams’ last matchup, LoVett came off of the bench and played limited minutes, only scoring 10 points. He should be a bigger factor in this game.
On the defensive end, St. John’s has two sophomore big men that lead the conference in blocked shots per game. 6’11” Tariq Owens and 6’7” but tremendously strong Kassoum Yakwe average over two blocks per game, and both had two against Butler the last time around. Additionally, Shamorie ponds leads the Big East in steals per game.
On top of these individual players, the team has put together some big wins this season. They stomped Syracuse by 33 points and turned around and beat Butler in their next game. They also beat Marquette handily. St. John’s has some nice young pieces on their roster, the conference is just waiting to see if they can consistently put those pieces together.
In their first matchup with St. John’s Butler struggled from deep shooting 24% in the contest. Avery Woodson was seemingly the only Dawg who could get the long ball to fall, shooting 50% from three in the game and scoring 10 points.
Offensively, Butler was lead by big man Tyler Wideman, who scored 20 and had four offensive rebounds.
Butler will need to overcome their struggles against scoring guards and bounce back from their loss at Providence in this game. Recently, star offensive player Kelan Martin has been playing limited minutes and in those minutes has not been playing like he should if he wants that starting spot back.
The Dawgs have not looked sharp in recent games. Will they overcome the adversity to take down St. John’s at home, or will they fold under the pressure that is definitely going to be brought by Marcus LoVett and company?
Players to Watch-
Avery Woodson is a veteran guard for Butler and should be their primary shooting threat for the Bulldogs in this game. He also has been seeing increased minutes that once belonged to Kelan Martin.
Kelan Martin has been one of the sources of Butler’s struggles recently. Taking the player that the offense is designed around out of the regular rotation is bound to cause trouble, but Martin has shined so brightly in so many games, it makes me feel like the benching isn’t going to last forever. Martin is either going to play big minutes and sore the ball a ton like he was at the beginning of the season, or Coach Holtmann will once again hand the reins over to Freshman Kamar Baldwin to lead the charge. Either way, keep an eye on Kelan Martin.
Shamorie Ponds is one of the best young guards around the conference, and even around college basketball. The headband rocking Freshman is likely to put up big numbers against the Dawgs yet again, so watch out, world.
Bashir Ahmed is a Junior guard for the Red Storm who scored 19 against Butler in their last matchup. He is also one of the team’s best rebounders, despite his small size relative to players like Tariq Owens. Look for Ahmed to try to tear the Dawgs up again.
Photo Credit: Indy Star.com