I. Recap | II. 40 Minutes of Discomfort | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage
Where on earth do the Fighting Irish go to eat before road games, all-you-can eat turkey buffets? Do they sleep the night before road games or do they hit the bars? Do they have a routine? Do the Irish just chat on Facebook and Skype all night before games?
Why are the Fighting Irish so much worse on the road than they are at home? The Irish have played 3 other road games this season, and in each one, they haven't cracked 60 points. Granted, the other two opponents are Syracuse and Kentucky. And stalwart post player Carleton Scott has been benched with injury for the past weeks.
But the 72-54 drubbing to the Red Storm (11-5, 4-2 Big East) was bizarre. I thought the Johnnies could win a close one, but blowing out the Irish? Even at home? How does a (ranked) team that smoked St. John's by 15 in South Bend get worked over by 18 points a week later by the same personnel?
Meanwhile, Malik Boothe had the game of his collegiate life, leading the squad with 14 point on 6-6 free throws and 2-3 three-pointers. Not bad for a guy whose career percentage is the numerical equivalent of FOR GOD'S SAKE MAN, DON'T SHOOT IT! (He's looked better shooting the ball this year; I kid because I love my man from Rosedale, Queens.)
It was a good game, made better by the verbal commitment by Chicago combo guard Phil Greene. More on how this game turned the Johnnies' way, below.
Good defense, for starters, by the Johnnies. St. John's and Notre Dame played under the watch of some whistle-happy refs. The game had a stilted pace in the first half. The Johnnies went into halftime 26-19, with 16 fouls and 11 turnovers. Notre Dame had 13 fouls, and 14 turnovers; the Irish had 4 field goals in the first half.
Only Ben Hansbrough had a decent game for Irish... and that's relative. He led the Irish with 18 points, but had 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, and got frustrated; Grey Cat of Villanova by the Numbers, doing a live text feed over at Rush the Court, noted that Hansbrough and Malik Boothe got into a little jawing match at the end of the half, and that Hansbrough was visibly frustrated with his teammates at times.
The Irish turned the ball over on 27% of their possessions, with contributions from all of sure-handed players like Tim Abromaitis. And shooting-wise... oof. The Irish shot 3-15 (20%) on three-pointers and 59% on 32 free throws.
Clearly, the Irish were out of sorts. The Red Storm's pressing defense - with pressure for all 94 feet, with a rotation of 9 players and trapping action that included a pesky 24 minutes from Malik Boothe - made Notre Dame's players uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, St. John's was in their kind of game - a disrupted game where the scoring owed more to athleticism than to scheme or design. Coming out of his shell was D.J. Kennedy, with 14 points, 8 total rebounds, and 5 free throw attempts (all made). The best part of his performance was that his shots were generally of the "Big Play" variety - a three to stop a run, an end-of-possession jumper that drew a foul after the shot fell in. Welcome back, D.J.
III. Keys to the Game
Pregame notes, with original Keys to the Game in "What Needs to Change"
Defend Hansbrough Better. While Hansbrough shot 6 of 10 for 18 points, he didn't power the defense at all or get his teammates involved. B+
Defend Without Fouling. St. John's did a better job of keeping their best players on the floor, in part by giving their players time to rest their defensive legs. Malik Stith was excellent and difficult on defense; at one point, he snatched a ball right out of the hands of Tyrone Nash. A-
Closer Shots. The Red Storm moved the ball well and got better shots; even when they created on their own, the team had some nice offensive stretches in the second half. Justin Brownlee had an efficient game, as did Boothe (from distance) and Dwight Hardy. B+
Better Ball Protection. The Johnnies weren't great at protecting the ball, but they were better than the Irish; and they held on to the ball in the second half when it mattered. B
More Energy. St. John's disrupted the normally sweet-shooting Irish, ramped up the pressure, extended the rotation without any loss of defensive efficiency, and rebounded well. A+
IV. News coverage
This game was a knock-down, drag-out affair from the opening tip. St. John's led 26-19 at halftime, after 20 minutes of play that featured 29 fouls and 25 turnovers (14 of them by Notre Dame). Things opened up a bit offensively in the second half, but St. John's maintained control. The closest the Fighting Irish got was within six points, briefly.
The Red Storm built a 26-19 lead at the break and still held a seven-point margin 2 1/2 minutes into the second half before a run of five straight expanded the margin to 37-25. Notre Dame quickly trimmed the deficit in half with the next six, but St. John's responded with a 12-2 spurt to take control.
Irish head coach Mike Brey was hit with a technical foul with 10:13 to play and Hardy made both ensuing free throws before drilling a three-pointer to give St. John's a 49-33 cushion. Notre Dame never really recovered.
The Red Storm led by as many as 19 at 55-36 on a bucket by Hardy before the Irish cut it to 57-46 on a layup by Tyrone Nash with just under five minutes left. Kennedy's acrobatic three-point play stemmed the Irish momentum and he followed with a pair from the line a few minutes later to extend the lead back to 16.
Johnny Jungle - It's Better The Second Time Around
St. John's basketball team avenges their loss earlier this season to the Irish of Notre Dame winning convincingly at home 72-54.
In a game that was as pedestrian in its opening stages as it was exciting and revealing toward the end, two players who were lost in the shuffle in recent times stood out today. D.J. Kennedy returned to his old form with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Malik Boothe chipped in with 14 of his own to lead the charge from Steve Lavin’s bench. While the headline will no doubt be Kennedy’s resurgence, Boothe surprised many of the fans in attendance with his offensive prowess, even draining two three-pointers.
"Our schemes and approach - and this is the mystery of sports that keeps coaches scratching their heads - our scouting report didn't change from last week, but our execution was at a higher level and we were able to dictate the game and impose our will on Notre Dame," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said. The change in the defense could be attributed to a team looking for revenge and an end to a two-game losing streak.
All of this came a little more than a week after Notre Dame shot 51% in a 15-point victory over the Johnnies that wasn't nearly as close as the score. The Irish came in averaging 77 points, but were held to their season-low on 41% shooting. St. John's limited them to four baskets in the first half and led by as many as 10 en route to a 26-19 lead at the intermission. Notre Dame committed a season-worst 20 turnovers. "St. John's defended the heck out of us," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We had trouble against their full-court pressure and their half-court stuff. . . . They got physical with us. "They are men. They played like men. And at times they treated us like boys."
Lavin said his mantra to the players focuses on "losing" yourself within the team identity, and not worrying about who's starting, who's coming off the bench and how many shots each player is getting. Boothe appears to be fitting into that framework quite well. After starting all 32 games last season and 11 of the first 12 this season, he has come off the bench in the last three games while recovering from a hamstring injury. His 14 points were the most since he put up 15 in an opening-night loss at St. Mary's.