St. John's vs Notre Dame preview: Irish look to avenge earlier loss on ND's Senior Night

US PRESSWIRE

"They really guarded the heck out of us with their speed and over the course of time, it wore on us. We had seven turnovers in the first-half, making it real tough for us." - Mike Brey after the Irish' 67-63 loss to the Red Storm in January.

A trip to the NCAA Tournament may be unlikely, but the Red Storm have two chances to beat a ranked team before the Big East Tournament starts in Madison Square Garden next week - and two more chances to show how dangerous they can be, even without the team's leading scorer. The first chance comes Tuesday evening, on the road against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

St. John's hasn't lost three straight games all season. But coming off of the loss to Providence, St. John's is on a two-game losing streak, 8-8 in the Big East with two games to go.

Game Information
Tip Off: 7:00 PM Eastern
At: #20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
(22-7, 10-6 Big East; coach, Mike Brey)
Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame, IN
(capacity: 9,149)
TV: ESPN2 | ESPN3 Radio: Bloomberg 1130
Announcers: Rece Davis, Bob Knight, Digger Phelps

Of course, D`Angelo Harrison was on the floor to help break those streaks, and played against Notre Dame in January.

On the other side, #24 Notre Dame comes off of a thorough pasting by Marquette where they were down by as much as 16 points in Milwaukee.

The Irish, with an ill Jack Cooley playing limited minutes and ineffective play from a number of their supplemental players, will look to put on a show for their home crowd on their Senior Night. The evening tilt between the Johnnies and Irish may be the last scheduled game, given the rumored conference changes; both coaches know that without a conference connection, future games are not a guarantee.

Add the chance for the Irish to overtake Syracuse for fifth place in the Big East, and an outside shot at the double-bye and fourth place... and you can expect the Leprechauns to come out with fists raised and ready to avenge the earlier loss, a loud, combustible Purcell Pavilion as March snow is scheduled to fall on the Indiana night.

Mood music:
For your rap with actual Fighting Irish imagery + pugilism mood: House of Pain, "On Point" (semi-NSFW, new window)

For your shoegazer (which might only be me, but they're Irish!) mood: My Bloody Valentine, "Only Shallow" (new window)

Last time, versus Notre Dame

With a lot of fight, solid adjustments, and some strong shot-blocking defense at the end, the Red Storm knocked off the then- #20 ranked Fighting Irish 67-63 in Madison Square Garden - the house where the Irish have struggled for years.

Starting with a small lineup, the Johnnies found out that fronting Jack Cooley and doubling on the perimeter led to Cooley-on-no-one matchups that allowed him to practice his dunking. It took Chris Obekpa's disruptive presence and switching defense - sometimes sagging man, sometimes extended pressure - to throw the Irish off-balance and generate seven first-half steals.

Phil Greene IV (13 points on 6/17 shooting) and JaKarr Sampson (17 points on 5/14 shooting) provided offense with help from a couple of late plays by Harrison and Amir Garrett's best scoring performance this year in Big East play (11 points on 5/7 shooting). Their efforts allowed Steve Lavin's team to hold off the Irish late - with the help of blocks by Obekpa and Harrison.

Still, the Irish had an uncharacteristically cold shooting performance, and forwards Cooley and Tom Knight got lots of good looks at the basket. The hot shooting, low-turnover Irish can be a far more dangerous team at home. The Johnnies need to both stifle their shooting once more, or use their ball movement to attack the Irish at the rim.

Scott Martin, who played in the first game, has been out with a left knee injury. Tom Knight (6'9", 246) has earned much more time, creating a sizeable front line. Zach Auguste (6'10", 230) also sees minutes.

Keys to the Game aka the TV lineup

Thank you for the memories, Notre Dame.

Ah, Senior Nights, where some bench player gets to start and stretch his skills in extended minutes, where other players get to dunk as forcefully as they can. Can JaKarr Sampson, Phil Greene IV, and Amir Garrett take the leadership position and hit big shots to quiet the crowd, spoiling Senior Night?

Meet me at the rim.

If the Red Storm can get the ball moving up the court with alacrity via the pass, the Storm can take advantage of their athleticism at the rim. Jamal Branch and Sir`Dominic Pointer's ballhandling/ vision will be key in getting high-percentage shots for the likes of Sampson... and possibly Marc-Antoine Bourgault if coach Steve Lavin chooses to give him floor time.

Disrupt the backcourt.

Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins slashing and passing make the Irish attack dangerous. Both have to be hurried to shoot and pass; the second half shooting and passing surge surges by Atkins powered the Irish to a lead late in New York. When they are kept outside of the paint, the Irish become a more predictable, stationary jump shooting team; and forcing turnovers can power the Johnnies' offense.

The Obekpa point prevention plan.

Mike Brey was concerned about Obekpa in the first meeting, and he'll be a factor again, altering the shots of Notre Dame's twin bigs Jack Cooley and Tom Knight. Just as important as altering shots will be his ability to hold his own on the glass to prevent second shots.

Prediction: At home, the Irish are difficult to master. 69-62 Notre Dame.

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