Men’s Basketball: Notebook

Malik Boothe wasn’t going to let then-No. 9 Notre Dame get the better of his team for the second time in eight days.

With 8:38 remaining in the first half of the Red Storm’s Sunday matinee against the Irish on Jan. 16, the senior point guard went on an 8-0 run by hitting a pair of free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers that opened up a 10-point St. John’s lead, a lead that the team never relinquished in their 72-54 win.

“He’s someone that can provide those jumper cables for your team because of his ball pressure and the ability to push the ball or escort the ball up the floor during transition,” head coach Steve Lavin said of Boothe. “He has a great competitive spirit that also is contagious and the other players feed off of that.”

Boothe, coming off the bench for the third straight game while continuing to recover from a hamstring injury that kept him out of St. John’s Jan. 3 win over Georgetown, was awarded the game ball from his coaching staff and teammates for his 14 points, which tied a team-high.

After allowing the Irish to shoot 51 percent in the teams’ Jan. 8 meeting in South Bend, St. John’s held Notre Dame to 28 percent shooting in the first half and disrupted its offensive rhythm by forcing 20 turnovers.

“We turned it over early and never really got into a flow. We came out in the second half and really took our time,” said Hansbrough, who scored 26 points in the first meeting but was limited offensively due to early foul trouble in the second. “Turnovers hurt us in the first half and St. Johns came up on us and they pressured and made things tough for us. We have to now get ready for our next game.”

Midway through the second half, the Irish nearly sparked a comeback when Eric Atkins cut the St. John’s lead to 37-29 after making two free throws, forcing a turnover of Boothe and feeding Big East Player of the Week Hansbrough for a breakaway dunk.

But on the ensuing St. John’s possession, senior swingman D.J. Kennedy hit a 3-pointer on the next possession that ended any hopes of a comeback by the Irish.

“It really comes from practice,” Kennedy said of making big shots. “The shots that I take and make are the ones that I take in practice. Coach always forces me to be aggressive at all times. And in the second half, that’s what I tried to come out to do.”

Lavin said that he had given Kennedy “the Emerald City green light” and wanted him to be more aggressive offensively. Despite taking just seven shots, Kennedy finished with 14 points.

Red Storm continue to receive AP votes

For the second straight week, the Red Storm earned points in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

By earning 27 points in the poll—a 23-point improvement from a week ago—the Red Storm now rank 36th nationally after beating two Top 25 teams for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

With an 11-5 record that includes five road wins, the Red Storm are ranked as high as No. 13 in the RPI reports, according to St. John’s also boasts the fifth-strongest schedule (35th non-conference) in the country, and is currently in the middle of an eight-game stretch against Top 25 teams.

Greene makes verbal commitment to St. John’s

Chicago, Ill. Point guard Phil Greene verbally committed to St. John’s after attending the Red Storm’s defeat of Notre Dame on Jan. 16, according to reports.

The 6-foot-2 point guard told SNY’s Adam Zagoria via text message that “it’s a good fit for me. They play an up and down style which is my style of play and I have a chance to play right away. They plan on letting me play the point and running the two at times.”

Greene is the ninth player to commit to St. John’s for the 2011-12 season, and joins a recruiting class that was already ranked in the top five nationally by various recruiting sources.

The team also received a verbal commitment from 2012 guard Jevon Thomas.