Watching St. John’s lose its 14th straight game in an 89-56 blowout against Butler was hard on a crowd of 5,602 who mostly stayed until the bitter end Saturday at Carnesecca Arena.
Red Storm fans simply have to borrow the old Brooklyn Dodgers mantra: “Wait till next year.”
Gracious Butler coach Chris Holtmann said as much after his Bulldogs (16-7, 5-6 Big East) dismantled the undermanned Red Storm (7-17, 0-11) and led by as many as 41 points midway through the second half.
“Chris is bringing in a heck of a recruiting class, it sounds like,” Holtmann said of first-year St. John’s coach Chris Mullin. “Their kids compete hard. I watched the Xavier game that went to the wire. Looking at their recruiting, we know there will be tremendous battles in the future.”
Holtmann knows Mullin and his staff already have signed Thomas Jefferson point guard Shamorie Ponds and junior college wing man Bashir Ahmed, and they have redshirt guard Marcus LoVett and transfer forward Tariq Owens, who will be eligible next season. St. John’s reportedly is in the mix for Brooklyn guard Rawle Alkins, and German forward Richard Freudenberg announced his verbal commitment Thursday.
But for the present, the team Mullin and his staff put together last spring with only three returning reserve players is suffering on the most brutal of obstacle courses.
At times, the Red Storm has produced stirring efforts, as it did in a seven-point loss at No. 6 Xavier on Wednesday, and it seemed St. John’s might duplicate that when it jumped to a 12-7 lead over Butler.
However, that was as good as it got for the Red Storm as Butler went on an epic 36-7 run to build a 43-19 lead with 3:06 left in the first half. Roosevelt Jones, who recorded a triple-double (10 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists), had eight points during that stretch, and the Bulldogs, who were 12-for-25 from three-point range, made five from beyond the arc.
St. John’s, which came in ranked 326th in Division I field-goal percentage at .396, was going in the opposite direction. The Storm shot 1-for-11 from the field, committed nine turnovers and missed six of 11 foul shots in that span as Butler took control.
“We got off to a pretty good start,” Mullin said. “It looked like we had some carry-over from the Xavier game. Then we just totally fell apart. I’m not quite sure why. I saw some fatigue.
“As well as [the Bulldogs] played, I think we helped them out quite a bit. We just got stagnant.”
The Bulldogs were up 48-26 at halftime and pushed their lead to a high of 41 points at 77-36 midway through the second half. Kelan Martin led them with 18 points, and they got 16 from Jordan Gathers and 11 from Tyler Wideman.
St. John’s was led by Kassoum Yakwe’s 11 points. The Red Storm shot only 30.6 percent, committed 21 turnovers and was outscored 34-10 in the paint.
“I kind of think we took their heart out,” Martin said.
The Red Storm’s obstacle course continues with a tough two-game trip to Georgetown on Monday and Villanova on Saturday.
“The young guys are taking their lumps, but they’re learning what winning players and teams do,” Mullin said. “It’s excruciating to go through. In the big picture, we’ll take notes, remember some of these nights and pay them back when we can.”