St. John’s blows it in painful loss to Butler

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The game was there for St. John’s to win. Early. Late. In overtime.

The Red Storm never could grab it. They never did enough to take command. They blew an early 16-point lead. They failed to execute with a lead in the final seconds of regulation. They were outplayed in overtime.

And so that six-game winning streak ended in disappointing fashion, in St. John’s seventh straight road loss to Butler, 76-73, a game in which almost everyone in red struggled at some point.

Posh Alexander had his worst game in weeks, badly outplayed by Butler’s Aaron Thompson. Julian Champagnie scored 19 points, but didn’t get nearly enough touches. The Johnnies were ice-cold from 3-point range, going just 4-for-17.

Dylan Addae-Wusu’s drive with 29.2 seconds left gave St. John’s a two-point lead, and after Bo Hodges’ drive for the Bulldogs was off, the Johnnies were in great shape. But they turned it over on the inbound when Rasheem Dunn couldn’t handle a low pass from Addae-Wusu, and Thompson pulled Butler even with 2.3 seconds left in regulation.

In overtime, St. John’s led by one after a Champagnie three-point play with 2:25 left, but Butler scored the final four points of the extra session.

Dunn missed the front end of a one-and-one with 21.6 seconds left and Champagnie and Alexander missed desperation 3-pointers after a Butler turnover.

After going 3-for-19 from 3-point range, Butler hit three straight from deep to get within two midway through the second half. The Bulldogs pulled even on a Hodges slam with 9:25 left. Then, Thompson’s layup with 7:55 left in regulation gave them their first lead of the game as part of a 13-3 run.

Butler extended the lead to four before St. John’s finally awoke, reeling off five consecutive points to regain the lead and set up a dramatic finish.

St. John’s (13-8, 7-7 Big East) started the game very much like it had against Providence on Saturday — with energy, intensity and execution. The Red Storm were suffocating Butler on the defensive end and sharing the ball offensively. They had 10 assists on 17 made field goals in the opening half and, following an 18-4 run, were up 30-14 after one of five Isaih Moore dunks in the first half.

On the verge of getting blown out, Butler (7-10, 6-8) responded. The Bulldogs got as close as two on the strength of their own 18-4 burst that coincided with Alexander picking up his second foul and sitting the final 6:03 of the half.

The St. John’s offense began to get stagnant without Alexander, and Butler took advantage. Thompson wreaked havoc by penetrating through the Johnnies’ pressure defense and finished the opening half with six assists.

St. John’s did close the half well, scoring the final six points on an Addae-Wusu drive, two Champagnie free throws and a Dunn floater to take a 40-32 lead into the break.

Coming out of the break, Butler made a point of getting the ball inside. It passed up jumpers to pound the ball into the paint, particularly once Josh Roberts picked up his third foul. The Bulldogs were controlling the glass, and the only reason St. John’s kept its lead in the opening minutes of the second half was Butler’s inability to cash in on second and third opportunities.

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