GAME NOTES: The blazing hot St. John's Red Storm put their five-game win streak on the line tonight, as they host the Butler Bulldogs in a Big East Conference clash at Madison Square Garden.
St. John's has resurrected its season over the course of the last month, with wins in eight of its last nine games, including an upset victory over Creighton (70-65) on Feb. 9. They are now 17-9 overall and suddenly in the middle of the clogged Big East standings, where they are tied for fifth place (7-6). They will face perhaps their biggest hurdle of the season next time against No. 9 Villanova.
Meanwhile, Butler has given its fans very little to cheer about this season, as the team, has lost four straight and six of its last seven games, falling below .500 overall (12-13) and into a last-place tie with DePaul in the conference standings (2-11). The Bulldogs will host Providence next.
These teams met for the first time since the inaugural NIT back in 1957 on Jan. 25, and St. John's won that matchup, 69-52. The Red Storm also won the first matchup more than half a century ago, 76-69.
Butler has been idle since facing Creighton last Thursday. The Bulldogs hung tough with the nationally-ranked Bluejays, but fell short in a 68-63 decision. They were only able to connect on 38.6 percent of their shots from the floor, compared to the 50 percent showing put forth by their opponent.
Inconsistent shooting has plagued Butler all season long, as the Bulldogs own the second-worst field goal percentage in the league (.432), which has led to the lowest scoring average (69.8 ppg) in the league. Kellen Dunham (16.8 ppg) and Khyle Marshall (14.6 ppg) complement each other in a solid backcourt- frontcourt combination. However, Dunham is a streaky shooter, netting just 38.5 percent of his attempts from the field. He finished with 16 points on 6- of-13 from the floor against Creighton, while Marshall struggled to attain eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
St. John's earned an emphatic win on Sunday, blasting long-time Big East rival Georgetown, 82-60. The Red Storm connected on an impressive 57.4 percent of their shots from the floor and claimed a 27-22 advantage on the glass. D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan each scored 24 points to lead the way.
Harrison (18.3 ppg) can always be counted on to light up the scoreboard, even if he tends to take more shots than is advisable at times. The 6-foot-4 guard is third in the Big East in scoring and has been in double figures in all but two games this season. However, his rate of success from the floor (.393) leaves room for improvement. JaKarr Sampson (12.3 ppg) is the only other double-digit scorer on the roster, but Jordan (8.8 ppg) has proven to be a capable third option. As a collective unit, the Red Storm rank fourth in the Big East in scoring (73.3 ppg), doing so on 45.2 percent accuracy from the field.
When these teams met at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season, St. John's did not seem affected by the hostile environment. Now that the Red Storm, a 12-3 team at home, are hosting, the result isn't likely to change.
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