Butler outscored St. John’s 34-25 in the second half in their 68-66 win on Feb. 7. Photo by Lauren Gdowksi.
KOBE MOSLEY | MANAGING EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler men’s basketball team won a nail-biter on Feb. 7, using stout defense and aggressive offense in a 68-66 win over the St. John’s Red Storm. The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the Dawgs, improving their record to 12-13 on the season — 9-4 inside Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Red Storm have now dropped five of their last six games, three in a row and are now 14-11 on the season.
Sophomore Jayden Taylor led all scorers with 19 points — his second-straight game with the point total. Three other Bulldogs joined Taylor in scoring double-digits. Graduate center Manny Bates added 15 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard/forward Simas Lukosius contributed 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Off the bench, senior forward/center Jalen Thomas scored 10 points.
For St. John’s, guard Posh Alexander scored a team-high 17 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. Guard Rafael Pinzon added 14 points and the Red Storm’s leading scorer, center Joel Soriano, ended with an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Let’s go beyond the box score in one of Butler’s most competitive games of the season.
Big second half
Led by Jayden Taylor’s 13 points in the half, the Bulldogs were able to outscore the Red Storm 34-25 in the final 20 minutes to steal the game. Taylor shot 6-12 from the field in the game and made all six of his free throws in the second half. Taylor spoke about his aggressive play down the stretch, which was a determining factor in the Bulldogs’ win.
“[I] just trust in the work we put in,” Taylor said. “We come in to practice every day and just trust in it … and being confident in myself and my teammates.”
Butler wouldn’t get a ton of stops throughout the half, but they did enough to limit St. John’s when and where it mattered. After giving up 22 points in the paint, Butler only gave up 12 in the second half. The Red Storm didn’t hit a three-pointer in the half and only attempted six free throws all game.
The biggest stretch of the game came in the last 3:50 of the game. Down 66-61, Butler held St. John’s scoreless while scoring off a dime by Lukosius to Bates for an and-one, clutch free throws by Taylor and the go-ahead layup by Lukosius. St. John’s Soriano would make a game-tying shot, but it fell just short of coming off his hand before the buzzer.
Manny feels “19 again”
From the opening tip, Bates looked to have some pep in his step. Catching lobs, blocking shots and grabbing offensive rebounds, he was looking like the dominant early-season version of himself. Bates admitted that before the game he was feeling young and spry.
“I was telling one of our managers earlier in shootaround, I said ‘I feel 19 again,’ so I feel amazing now,” Bates said.
With his knee injury hampering him on and off this season, it is definitely a welcome sight to see that the graduate center is capable of impacting games once again. If Butler wants to end the season on a high note, Bates’s health and ability to stay out of foul trouble — he had zero fouls — will remain a huge factor.
Looking ahead to Xavier
It will be a quick turnaround as Butler will take on the No. 13 Xavier Musketeers on Feb. 10 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. This will be the first matchup between the two teams this season. Last season, the Bulldogs defeated the Musketeers 89-82 in the Big East Tournament. The Musketeers are on a two-game winning streak and are coming off a 96-71 home win against St. John’s.