It's not often the Bulldogs give their fans a drama free game. That's exactly what they did this afternoon though, jumping all over St. John's from the first few minutes of the game. Butler opened the game on a 19-2 run, and St. John's never got the lead below 14 the rest of the game. Kelan Martin had a game high 19 points as Butler defeated St. John's 70-45 to move to 5-4 at the midway point in Big East play.
Aaron Thompson Hit a 3!
For the first time this season Aaron Thompson attempted a 3 pointer that wasn't simply to beat the shot clock. Early in the game Thompson pulled up from 3 and buried it to the delight of the Hinkle crowd. He later attempted two more from distance but couldn't connect on either of those. If Thompson can shoot 1 for 3 every game though it will drastically open up the offense when he is on the floor. Currently defenders play with a foot in the paint against Thompson and it makes it difficult for others to drive. Thompson also played well in addition to knocking down that 3-pointer. He finished with 8 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers, and another drawn charge.
Is The Butler Defense Back?
There is no question St. John's is a lackluster Big East opponent. They came in 8th in the Big East in offensive efficiency. This was still an outstanding defensive performance. Butler held St. John's to only 45 points, their lowest total on the season. The Red Storm shot 29% from the field and 24% from 3-point range for a total of 0.67 points per possession. Butler held St. John's to only 8 offensive rebounds. That may sound like a lot, but with 42 chances it works out to only 19%.
I said before the game that if Butler won the turnover battle they would win this game. St. John's came in 21st in the country at taking care of the ball and 3rd in the country at forcing turnovers. Butler has traditionally been strong on both fronts, but they have really struggled to force turnovers in conference play. They played St. John's to a tie in this one, with both teams turning the ball over 11 times. Considering the advantages Butler has elsewhere that was a victory for the Bulldogs.
Strong First Half
The Bulldogs are now exactly halfway through conference play and sit at a respectable 5-4. That's not enough to contend for a conference title, but it is exactly where they need to be to play their way into the NCAA tournament for the 4th straight year. Butler has played every team exactly once, with 5 of the 9 coming on the road. If Butler can repeat their first half they will be safely dancing regardless of what happens in the Big East tournament.
The second half of the conference season doesn't start off easy for the Bulldogs though. They travel to Marquette on Wednesday for what is statistically the 3rd toughest game left on the schedule. A win would boost them to the top half of the league and give them some comfortable wiggle room inside the NCAA tournament field for the time being.