The St. John’s Red Storm closed out the 2019 calendar year in the loss column. The Red Storm fell short against the number 11 ranked Butler Bulldogs by a score of 60-58. At one point during the contest, the Red Storm found themselves trailing by 23 points. However, to their credit they managed to fight back and take the lead by five points, to then lose the meeting by two.
Typically, in college basketball, any equation that consists of a strong rally combined with taking a lead, usually equals victory. Unfortunately, the heartbreaking final minute of the clash spelled the difference. Leaving the packed house at Carnesecca Arena on New Year’s Eve in disbelief.
The Red Storm had an opportunity to pull out the victory with 13 seconds left. However, Rasheem Dunn lost control of the basketball in the final drive. Upon losing possession of the rock, the ball wound up in the hands of LJ Figueroa, and his ‘Hail Mary’ heave at the buzzer fell considerably short.
The Red Storm have now dropped their second Big East opener in consecutive season. But this was different, when teams get beat in this manner it’s enough to leave players disenchanted as well rattle a team’s confidence.
“I told our guys I’ve never been prouder of a team,” said Head Coach Mike Anderson. “We were just a play way from pulling off a great win against an outstanding basketball team. My guys left it out on the floor.”
With the loss, the Red Storm now fall to 11-3 and 0-1 in the Big East conference.
Red Storm senior guard Nick Rutherford filled the void that has been left empty in the absence of Mustapha Heron. Heron has been sidelined with an ankle injury. The left-handed Rutherford led the Red Storm with season-highs in the categories of scoring with 15 points and in steals with six. Dunn also added 12, while Greg Williams Jr. finished the night with 11 points, four assists and three steals.
After sustaining an ankle injury in the first half, Bulldogs point guard Kamar Baldwin scored 19 points, all while in the process of helping his team improve to 13-1 overall and 1-0 in Big East play.
After an awful first period that saw the Red Storm get outscored by an alarming 21 points, their defense picked up tremendously throughout the duration of the second half. The Red Storm forced 16 Bulldogs turnovers in the final 20 minutes of the duel.
In the same amount of time required to peel a banana; a 39-16 deficit was now cut to three at 46-43. The Red Storm pressure defense caused all types of difficulty for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs had problems bringing the ball up the court, they took bad shots and often committed shot-clock violations.
The Red Storm capitalized on the Bulldogs turnovers, by converting them into easy points. A Rutherford slam dunk concluded a 21-2 run, all while Figueroa sat on the bench, due to foul trouble. A gorgeous assist from Rutherford to David Caraher produced a three-pointer, that tied the game at 46. Outside of the successful shooting from behind the range, the Red Storm also worked the ball in the post effectively. Sophomore forward Marcellus Earlington scored a bucket in the paint. This basket gave the Red Storm the lead by two points at 48-46.
“You can see it on film. You can’t simulate what they do in practice, how quick their hands are, the speed of some of the traps,” Butler Head Coach LaVall Jordan said to the media at the post-game presser.
Unfortunately, the Red Storm underwent scoring withdrawal late. They missed their last five shots. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs scored the last seven points to conclude the period.
A Christian David 3-pointer with 43 seconds left on the clock, sealed the win for the Bulldogs.
“They made the right plays at the right time,” Coach Anderson said. “We dug a hole and we got back in it. That’s the most encouraging thing. But at the end of the day, they made plays.”
The Red Storm visit Xavier this Sunday.