Butler looking to break out of slump against St. John’s

Andrew Chrabascz and the Bulldogs have lost three of the last four games.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With five regular-season games left before the Big East tournament, Butler coach Chris Holtmann is focused on his team’s development.

“None of the games are more important than the other. What’s most important is how your team is growing and playing,” said Holtmann, whose No. 24 Bulldogs (19-6, 8-5) host St. John’s (12-14, 6-7) at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. “We showed some things the other day against Providence (a 71-65 road loss on Saturday). We just need to put more good moments together. That will be a challenge for us against a really good team.”

The Red Storm, which has won two of their last three games, knocked off the visiting Bulldogs 76-73 on Dec. 29 in the conference opener for both teams.

“Their guards are extremely talented,” Holtmann said of St. John’s. “They can score the ball and they are active defensively. I think they’re one of the most talented teams in the league.”

The Bulldogs have lost three of the last four games.

“I don’t look at it as funk necessarily,” Holtmann said. “The reality is you are going to get beat up in league play. We’ve struggled at moments in this stretch. We also played well in some of these stretches, we just haven’t played well enough to win.

“When you start out 18-3, that kind of changes everyone’s perspective. None of us, including myself, would have picked us to be where we’re at right now before the season. Our guys have done a good job with these new group, playing together, really from day one. We know our margin for error is pretty small.”

Butler was picked to finish sixth in the Big East in the preseason poll by conference coaches.

One problem for the Bulldogs is junior Kelan Martin’s struggles. Martin, who still leads the team with 15.4 scoring average, has scored just 20 points in the past three games, making 8 of 26 shots.

“When you are player who gets a lot of attention, you got to focus on how you can impact the game,” Holtmann said. “He’s got to think how can he help the team win possessions. Hopefully, his shooting will come around but that’s not completely what he’s defined by so he needs to grow and impact the game in other areas.”

Red Storm coach Chris Mullin is encouraged by his team’s recent play, beating Seton Hall 78-70 on Saturday.

“If we play really tough defense, smart and tough, and show some resistance and play unselfish on the offensive end, I think we can play with just about anybody,” Mullin said. “We’ve shown we can be dangerous to our opponents and we can be dangerous to ourselves. We just have to make sure we are dangerous to our opponents more often.”

St. John’s guard Marcus LoVett said the team is making steady improvement.

“We’re taking a step every day,” said LoVett, who was named Big East Freshman of the Year after scoring 19 against Seton Hall. “Slowly, we’re progressing, and that’s what we talk about in practice and the coaches stress just trying to get better each and every day in practice.”