January 02, 2015

St. John's is limiting opponents to the Big East's lowest shooting percentage while Butler is allowing the conference's fewest points.

A defensive battle figures to be on tap Saturday when the No. 15 Red Storm begin life without Rysheed Jordan by hosting the Bulldogs.

St. John's is allowing foes to shoot 37.1 percent while Butler is yielding an average of 56.9 points, though both teams struggled defensively in conference openers Wednesday.

The Red Storm (11-2) had their seven-game win streak snapped with a 78-67 loss at Seton Hall, which shot 46.0 percent - the second-highest mark yielded by St. John's.

"We were disappointed with our assignments, our defensive coverages," coach Steve Lavin said. "We didn't level off dribble penetration. They beat us on the boards by five."

Butler (10-4) also yielded its second-worst shooting percentage at 47.9 to No. 6 Villanova in a 67-55 defeat. The Bulldogs fell to 0-5 in Big East games against ranked foes.

Since that contest, Chris Holtmann was named Butler's permanent coach Friday after holding the interim tag for the first 14 games since Brandon Miller was away on a medical leave of absence. Miller will not be back.

"I am honored to be named the head coach at Butler University and it is a real privilege to serve the university in this capacity," Holtmann told the school's official website.

The coach has a tough assignment since Butler was blown out twice by St. John's a season ago by a combined 42 points while making 5 of 30 3-pointers.

Top scorer Kellen Dunham turned in 13-point efforts each time, and looks to get back on track after he scored a season-low 10 against the Wildcats.

''Kellen's got to get cleaner looks for us,'' Holtmann said. ''I never felt like we were as good as we needed to be in the halfcourt. I thought it was too easy for them.''

The Red Storm might not have it too easy for the near future with Jordan taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with ''personal and family circumstances'' in Philadelphia. Jordan ranks sixth in the Big East conference with 14 points per game and is fourth with 2.1 steals per contest.

With Jordan out, St. John's could use a big performance from Sir'Dominic Pointer, who scored a season-low four points on 2-of-6 shooting versus the Pirates. Pointer had a career-high 24 in Sunday's 82-57 rout of Tulane.

"People who follow our team closely know that he's our catalyst at both ends of the floor," Lavin said. "(He) never found his rhythm offensively and didn't play with the usual pep in his step."

One factor that has changed with this matchup is that Jakarr Sampson is in the NBA and not with the Red Storm after the forward made 20 of 29 shots for 43 points last season against the Bulldogs.

St. John's shot 50.4 percent in the two games against Butler despite getting a minimal contribution from leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison, who totaled 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Harrison scored a team-high 25 points Wednesday, and is second in the conference with 19.5 per game.

Chris Obekpa only played once against the Bulldogs last season with six minutes. He's second in the nation with 3.8 blocks per game.

The Red Storm are 9-1 at home. This contest is on campus at Carnesecca Arena, where they are 7-0.

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