Second Half Sinks Bulldogs
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Ja'Karr Sampson scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help lift host St. John's to a 77-52 victory over Butler at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (Feb. 18). The BIG EAST loss dropped Butler to 12-14 on the season and 2-12 in conference play.
The Red Storm (18-9, 8-6 BIG EAST), trailing 33-30 at halftime, opened the second half on a 14-2 run to grab control of the game. The host squad eventually out-scored Butler, 47-19 over the final 20 minutes, while pulling away to its sixth consecutive victory.
"The game today was a tale of two halves," said Butler head coach Brandon Miller. "We had the game where we wanted it in the first half. We executed on the offensive end of the floor, and we defended."
"The second half, we didn't make shots early on and St. John's got out in transition and got some easy baskets," added the Butler coach. "They turned us over a little bit. Their pressure picked up and we didn't handle it very well. When the game got going up and down, they got too many easy baskets and the game got away from us."
After shooting 48% (12 of 25) in the opening half, Butler missed nine of its first 10 shots in the second half. St. John's, led by the hot hand of Sampson, countered by hitting six of its first ten attempts. The Red Storm went on to shoot 60% (17-28) from the field, including three of five attempts from beyond the three-point arc, in the second half. Sampson hit seven of ten shots after intermission and 11 of 15 for the game.
Butler, hounded by St. John's fullcourt pressure, continued its chilly second half shooting and wound up hitting just seven of 30 (20%) attempts, including just three of 18 (16.7%) from three-point range, in the final 20 minutes.
"(St. John's) did a great job of pressuring the ball and forcing us to catch it in spots where we didn't want it," said Butler senior forward Khyle Marshall of the St. John's second half defensive effort. "They did a great job of denying and pressuring our guards and our bigs as well."
It was the Bulldogs who held the upper hand at both ends of the floor in the first half. Butler took the lead at 21-20 on a free throw by Marshall with 4:31 left in the opening period, and the Bulldogs never trailed the rest of the half. Butler's defense limited St. John's to 36.7% (11-30) shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Sampson was one of two St. John's players to finish in double-figures. Guard Jamal Branch came off the bench with 10 points in 19 minutes. Twelve different players saw action for the Red Storm and 10 cracked the scoring column.
Marshall led Butler with 16 points, all in the first half. Sophomore Kellen Dunham finished with 13, while junior Alex Barlow added 11.
Butler played without BIG EAST rebounding leader Kameron Woods, who did not make the trip with the team. Miller indicated after the game that Woods has been temporarily suspended from the team. St. John's wound up out-rebounding the Bulldogs, 52-28, including a 32-10 advantage in the second half.
The Bulldogs will return home to host Providence on Sunday, Feb. 23. That contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse will start at 6 p.m. (ET).