After last Thursday’s win over Louisville, men’s basketball Head Coach Norm Roberts told his team to bottle up whatever mojo they displayed against the Cardinals and carry it over to the next game.
They responded with an equally impressive performance on the road against a shorthanded Notre Dame team.
When Notre Dame guard Tim Abromaitis scored six of his 24 points to turn a 64-60 St. John’s lead into a 66-64 deficit with 1:29 to go, it looked like St. John’s would follow the same script they had all year-blow a halftime lead and lose a frustratingly winnable game because of an inability to guard an opponent’s star.But the Red Storm changed the script on Sunday night.
Junior guard Dwight Hardy drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the night to answer Abromaitis and put the Johnnies back on top, but with 38 seconds left, junior forward Justin Burrell was whistled for his fifth foul on a questionable call when he contested a shot by Notre Dame forward Tyrone Nash. The ensuing free throws gave the Irish a 68-67 lead.
On the ensuing possession, junior swingman DJ Kennedy refused a ball screen from junior forward Rob Thomas and drove strong down the left side, drawing the foul on Notre Dame forward Carelton Scott. He then calmly sank both free throws with 12.5 seconds left to give St. John’s a 69-68 lead.
After sweating through two missed 3-pointers by Notre Dame guard Tory Jackson, St. John’s left the Joyce Center as winners, the first time they’ve done so on an opponent’s floor in Big East play this season.
For much of the game, St. John’s outshot Notre Dame, one of the best shooting teams in the conference. They shot the Fighting Irish out of their 2-3 zone in the first half thanks to seven 3-pointers, including four by Hardy and two by Kennedy.
The hot shooting propelled them to a 37-34 halftime lead. It was the fifth time in the past six that they’ve entered the locker room ahead. They would push the lead to nine in the beginning of the second half, and had an answer every time the Irish made a run.
Unlike previous games, where they would break down in the second half, against Notre Dame they were able to handle everything the Fighting Irish threw at them and still came out on top.
“Our guys have really been working hard,” Roberts said. “That hard work is really paying off for them right now. I thought we got contributions from everybody. Everybody made big plays in order for us to get a team win.”
Junior forward Justin Burrell, who had 12 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench, had his share of big plays.
While Hardy stole the show with five 3-pointers and 16 points, and Kennedy made the big play at the end, Burrell quietly turned in another solid game. The big man went tit-for-tat with Nash, who had 16 points filling in for injured Notre Dame superstar Luke Harangody.
“He’s being aggressive every time he touches it,” said Roberts. “He’s rebounding and doing all the little things.”
The Red Storm have won two straight games following a five-game losing streak. Roberts is pleased his team hasn’t given up despite the tough run.
“Our kids have great character,” Roberts said. “They’re tough kids who want to do well. They stuck together. They never gave up on one another, and they persevered.”
St. John’s (14-10, 4-8) plays Seton Hall tonight at 7:30. Notre Dame (17-9, 6-7) travels to Louisville tonight for a battle with the Cardinals.