Notre Dame-St. John's Preview
Notre Dame has been ranked each of the last three times it has faced St. John's in Madison Square Garden only to fall every time.
The No. 20 Fighting Irish could be in for a challenge Saturday as they search for a 10th straight victory when they meet the Red Storm.
Notre Dame (20-8, 12-3 Big East) can clinch a double-bye in the conference tournament by matching the second-longest win streak under coach Mike Brey, a 10-game run Nov. 24, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008. This nine-game streak is the longest the Irish have ever had in Big East play, and they're coming off their most lopsided conference win with a 71-44 rout of West Virginia on Wednesday.
"One of the things I mentioned to our guys after the West Virginia game is that we're playing in the Garden," Brey said. "And we're gonna play on the floor that we'll be back on for the Big East tournament and we want to play well."
The coach knows that playing well at MSG against St. John's (12-16, 5-10) hasn't been easy in the past, particularly for this noon start. Notre Dame was ranked No. 9 in last season's 72-54 defeat in a Sunday afternoon game, with an unranked Red Storm team winning its third straight at home in this series.
"Last time we played at noon in the Garden against St. John's, we didn't play very well," Brey said. "Matter of fact, they beat us pretty easily."
St. John's is 0-10 against ranked opponents for the worst record in the nation. The Red Storm, however, are seeking three straight wins for the first time since Dec. 17-27.
"Of course we need one to check beating a ranked team off the list," guard Phil Greene said. "We're young so that would be a good accomplishment for us and would give us more confidence heading into the Big East tournament."
Notre Dame is shooting 38.9 percent on 3-pointers during this win streak. That's in stark contrast to St. John's, which owns one of the nation's worst marks in conference play at 28.1 percent - lowest in the Big East.
The Irish also have gotten improved play from forward Jack Cooley, averaging 19.2 points on 73.1 percent shooting and 12.6 rebounds over his last five games.
"They are shooting a real good percentage right now," St. John's swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer said. "They're hitting a lot of 3s and their big man (Cooley) catches everything."
St. John's has used five freshman starters with junior college newcomer God'sgift Achiuwa the only reserve in the last two games. The lack of depth has forced the Red Storm to mainly employ a zone defense.
"They'll play kind of a matchup zone against us the whole game," Brey said. "They're only playing six guys so we have to be good against the zone like we were against Syracuse."
The Red Storm's D'Angelo Harrison leads Big East freshmen in scoring at 17.1 points per game, with an average of 22.5 over the last two games. He's part of a three-guard lineup that Pointer said gives St. John's "a natural speed advantage."
"Defensively it's going to be a lot of staying in front of quickness," Brey said. "It's a team that wants to take us off the dribble with speed and we must control the backcourt again."