St. John’s storms past Butler 76-63 and into the Big East Tournament quarterfinals

St. John's
Joel Soriano watches on in St. John’s win over Butler in the Big East tournament (Photo: Kyle Sweeting, amNY Sports)

St. John’s kicked off the Big East tournament in style, beating Butler 76-63 at Madison Square Garden

The relative inexperience of the St. John’s team showed early on, as Butler took an early lead and kept the game within six points for much of the first half. However, after a three-pointer by Ali Ali with 7:04 left in the first half cut the St. John’s lead to 26-21, the Red Storm flipped a switch on the defensive end. 

They outscored Butler 18-8 to end the half, including a 9-0 run to give them a 17-point lead with just 1:04 left in the half. 

“Our guys I thought came out with good energy and made some shots earlier,” Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson said. “Established inside, did  good job of getting to the glass. I thought that was gonna be a big stat in this particular game. We played them recently, I thought they did a good job of attacking the glass which enabled them to get to the free-throw line.”

Second-team all-Big East center Joel Soriano paced the Red Storm throughout the game. The Yonkers, NY native was a handful in the paint for the Bulldogs posting 11 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks at the half. He would finish with 19 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists. 

Bronx, NY native Dylan Addae-Wusu led the Red Storm in assists with four while also posting 10 points and 10 rebounds for a +16 plus/minus. 

While St. John’s controlled the game for the majority of the contest, getting the lead up to 21 at one point, Butler never went away. They pestered the Red Storm on defense, notching 10 steals, and cut the lead to as little as nine points in the second half. 

The Bulldogs held the Red Storm to just 32.4% shooting in the second half and 23.1% from beyond the arc and forced eight turnovers, but it just wasn’t enough as Butler only shot 38.5% from the field and 25.9% from beyond the arc in the second half. 

Butler was led by Simas Lukosius, who had 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, four rebounds, and three assists. The Bulldogs played without two starters Manny Bates and Eric Hunter Jr., who were ruled out due to not meeting the academic standards of the university

This marks the third-straight sub-par season for a once proud Butler team. After finishing 22-9 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Bulldogs have now been under .500 for the last three seasons. 

St. John’s will have no time to celebrate their win as they’ll be back on the court on Thursday at Noon E.T. against the top-seed Marquette Golden Eagles. 

While St. John’s pushed Marquette to the brink just a week ago, they’re going to need to play a much cleaner game than they did tonight against Butler. The Red Storm turned the ball over 14 times, allowing the Bulldogs to score 21 points off of turnovers. If St. John’s is as careless with the ball against Marquette, they are going to find the sledding much tougher. 

“Well, we know Marquette. Marquette is gonna come in and give us a great fight,” Soriano said. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’ve demonstrated that. I think we just have to play our game. That’s a team that likes to speed other teams up, force them to make turnovers, make errors. I think if we play our style of basketball. we’ll be alright.”

Another potential issue for the Red Storm could be their free throw shooting. They were just 63% from the charity stripe in their first round action and need to take advantage of those opportunities if they hope to pull off an upset. 

It’s a win the Red Storm desperately need since Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketlogy has St. John’s missing the NCAA Tournament. They’ll need a deep run in the Big East Tournament to change that and it starts with facing down Marquette on Thursday. 

For more NCAA basketball coverage like this St. John’s recap, visit amNY Sports

The St. John's Red Storm huddle in second half action
The St. John’s Red Storm huddle up in the second half of their win over Butler (Photo: Kyle Sweeting, amNY Sports)