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Game #14: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs St. John's

Oof. What a loss to Providence.

"Forget any excuses. Forget that we won't have Mase this season. Forget that we didn't have Malik. Forget that Justin Burrell is trying to learn how to play with a shield on his face. We didn't play with the kind of effort you need to play in this league."
- Coach Norm Roberts to the NY Post after 75-54 loss to Providence College

Last year's Big East conference opener against Syracuse was at least interesting, with Justin Burrell jump-shooting his way to a strong 21 point, 12 rebound effort that gave some hope that the Red Storm team might be at least competitive. Of course, they found themselves on the wrong hands of some bad beatings last year.

The New Year's Eve conference opener against Providence this year simply fed the fans' despair.

Lenn Robbins reports that the team held a lot of team talks and took extra practice that night; Coach Roberts told Robbins "we didn't play with the kind of effort you need to play in this league." He's got that right.

When starting with an 11-0 lead on Paris Horne's thieving, stealing, and blocking - he was like an unstoppable force like Knockout Ned from the movie City of God - it is appalling to then be outscored 33-14 for the rest of the half, and 42-29 in the second half.

Abraham Lincoln and WifeNot much went wrong, besides an inability to play through a three-quarter court zone press, the shoddy defensive play of the freshman guards, the lack of intensity, the 2-17 shooting from beyond the arc, Randall Hanke beating more touted forwards down the court for position, lackadaisical effort...

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the play?

Notre Dame comes to Madison Square Garden tomorrow for the first of two meetings this season. I am sure their local alumni will make the Garden sound louder than a cemetery for once. It might even feel like a home game for the Fighting Irish. St. John's has a monumental task ahead of them if they want a chance to win this game; keeping the game close seems unlikely with the Red Storm's poor shooting, rebounding disadvantages, and nosedive in confidence and energy in the past few losses.

Last year's matchup was kept relatively close by the Red Storm slowing the game to a crawl, and sending Dele Coker out to annoy Luke Harangody. Coker did get under his skin, but that didn't affect his shooting at all, and the Golden Domers came away with a 13-point win at the Joyce Center that didn't feel very close from about 15 minutes onwards.

As the defenses and teams have improved - along with the injury to Malik Boothe - the Red Storm’s ability to score has severely diminished. The scoring issues are compounded by St. John's inability to use the great equalizer, the 3-point shot. Two freshmen guards will get time at the point, Quincy Roberts and TyShwan Edmondson. Ty is a work in progress; Quincy has played 39 and 40 minutes in the past two games, and decided to put up 19 shots as a gift to himself for his birthday on New Year's Eve.

For the bettors, the spread is 9.5 in favor of the Irish.

Notre Dame


The Irish go 7 deep with experienced, talented juniors and seniors. All-American candidate Luke Harangody is nearly impossible to stop on offense, and Kyle McAlarney is no slouch himself. Ryan Ayers has come on strong as a third scoring option for one of the most efficient offenses in Division I. McAlarney and Tory Jackson stay on the court for most possessions. Luke Zeller and Jonathan Peoples are the backups; no other player gets 30% of the minutes in games.

The team shares the ball very well, assisting on nearly 64 percent of made baskets. They are one of the most efficient three-point shooting teams in the nation at nearly 42%; they have the second best turnover rate on offense in the nation (but one of the worst rates of forcing turnovers); and they do not give out free trips to the line.

They have not been a top line defensive team, and that becomes an issue when they find a defense talented enough to slow down their attack. Otherwise, their lack of defensive pressure is not an issue.

SG 23 Kyle McAlarney SR 6'0" 196lbs - 16.8 ppg/ 3.6 apg/ 46.4% 3PT

PG 2 Tory Jackson JR 5'11" 193lbs - 11.3 ppg/ 4.3 rpg/ 5.9 apg/ 2.1 fpg

F 42 Ryan Ayers SR 6'7" 210lbs - 13 ppg/ 3.8 rpg/ 47.3% 3PT

F 44 Luke Harangody JR 6'8" 251lbs - 23 ppg/ 12.4 rpg/ 1.1 bpg/ 1.2 spg/ 51% FG

F 33 Zach Hillesland SR 6'9" 233lbs - 7.2 ppg/ 6.2 rpg/ 3.3 apg/ 2.4 fpg/ 50.7%FG

St. John's

St. John's logoWednesday's game at Providence was a debacle, with the kind of breakdowns that make a fan think that they team isn't coached at all. Or have given up on the season or their coach. Hopefully they come out with some energy in the morning against the Fighting Irish. Expect some grappling with Harangody from Coker and Evans. But if they spend too much time on defending the reigning Big East player of the year, Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller will have career days.

Paris Horne will likely check Kyle McAlarney. Rob Thomas sat out the last game with stomach issues; the same issues felled Paris Horne for part of the game. Please bring some Rolaids, trainers.

G 23 Paris Horne SO 6'3" 185lbs - 12.9 ppg/ 3.2 rpg/ 2.3 apg/ 32.3% 3PT/ 1.6 spg/ 2.2 fpg

G/F DJ Kennedy SO 6'6" 210 lbs - 12.5 ppg/ 7.1 rpg/ 2.5 apg/ 2.2 fpg

G Quincy Roberts FR 6'5" 190 lbs - 5.8 ppg/ 2.6 rpg/ 40.8% FG/ 28% 3PT

F Justin Burrell SO 6'8" 240 lbs - 9.8 ppg/ 4.4 rpg/ 2.1 TOg/ 54.1% FG

F Sean Evans SO 6'8" 250 lbs - 10.6 ppg/ 6.6 rpg/ 54.4% FG/ 47.3% FT

Five Points or Keys to the Game

KeysKeep Track of Your Opponents. One thing seemed consistent against Providence. St. John's defenders could not keep track of their men while playing man defense. Whether it was Ty Edmondson getting lost on a screen and then throwing his hands in the air, or Quincy Roberts lunging for a steal while two players were already behind him, the last` line of defense, or Justin Burrell and Sean Evans not locating the really tall white guy (Hanke) on the court, the Red Storm simply lost their defensive principles. They have to stick with their assignments and get back on defense.

Fight the Irish. Hey, it's what they have to do. The Red Storm has to make this a slow, ugly contest, disrupting McAlarney and Harangody, pulling down tough traffic rebounds (especially on offense), and getting the Irish to foul them, somehow.

Out of Harangody's Hands. Harangody loves to score like a dude with notches on his bedpost. St. John's has to take away his opportunities but denying him the ball and making him pass to less talented scorers. Not that they can't beat St. John's by themselves, but Harangody is the best at getting his shot off. Then again, Ryan Ayers is the most efficient, stroking well from behind the arc, so any strategy has to also involve covering the other scorers.

Hang Around Until they're Napping. If St. John's can stop shooting itself in the foot with turnovers, and goad the Irish into some foolish plays, maybe the Red Storm can steal the contest.

Play With Pride. Play hard. Remember the offensive and defensive principles. Keep the ball moving, pick some assists. Take some charges. Play defense like pissed off rottweilers.