We missed some point-blank shots early, deflating plays,then took some quick, ill-advised shots and made some turnovers. - Steve Lavin, on what happened to the Red Storm
I. Recap | II. Brownlee Shots | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage
The Irish were cold like the howling weather outside of Purcell Pavilion. But once they got going, the Irish were tough on offense and pesky on defense, drawing 2 fouls on most of the Red Storm's regular lineup (DJ Kennedy, Justin Brownlee, Dwight Hardy, and Justin Burrell) in the first half on their way to a 76-61 win in South Bend. The Irish enjoyed a cushion of at least 10 points from the 11 minute mark in the first half, controlling the game from there.
Ben Hansbrough had a career-high 26 points and added 4 steals, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds, and the Irish 12 each from Scott Martin and Tim Abromaitis. Martin had 8 rebounds (1 offensive), Abromaitis had 9 boards. Eric Atkins had 4 assists and a pair of improbable shots at the end of the shot clock. He also had 4 turnovers. Tyrone Nash had 5 turnovers, fouled out, but scored 8.
For the Red Storm, Brownlee had 19 points (on 19 shots), while Dwayne Polee II had 10, and Paris Horne had 9. Brownlee had 8 boards (2 offensive). Hardy had 2 steals and 4 turnovers.
Notre Dame moves to 14-2, 3-1 in the Big East and tied for the league lead. St. John's falls to 10-4, 3-1 in the league. Game review, keys to the game, and more below.
From the opening tip, St. John's looked a little shook against the Irish; both teams struggled. It took the Irish until the 14:15 mark to reach 10 points, bothered by Red Storm doubles and traps. But throughout the game, the Irish's perimeter shooters were open. Compounding the defensive lapses, the Red Storm turned the ball over, and had a hard time finding offensive cohesiveness or efficiency.
With Kennedy, Brownlee, Burrell, and Hardy saddled with fouls, the Red Storm played Malik Boothe, Malik Stith, Dele Coker, Polee, and Horne. Sean Evans saw 3 minutes as well; Coach Lavin was looking for something that worked, someone to get the Irish out of position, someone who could make a play.
It didn't happen. But it's a long season - which we all need to remember. With this team, in this league, and in this January stretch against very highly regarded opponents, and on the road, this kind of game was bound to happen. Keeping the Red Storm out of the paint was key for the Irish, and they succeeded.
The Red Storm shot 29 jump shots (hitting 8), got 3 dunks (at least 2 of them late) and had 23 "layups" that weren't that close, hitting 11 of those. This wasn't just a bad shooting night. It was a bad shot selection night.
The Irish were effective in keeping the Red Storm out of the paint with their length and size. The best scoring chances for the Red Storm came with aggressive drives in transition. But in those scoring chances, there were errant passes, turnovers on the drive, and Brownlee Shots.
What is that, you ask? Well, I will tell you. Last year, Justin Brownlee had the habit of wanting to get his first shot out of the way early. So he would come in from the bench, get the ball on the perimeter and with 25 seconds or more on the shot clock, with teammates still coming to set up in the offense, with no one defending him for a shot he could get with 10 seconds on the clock, Brownlee would jack up a jump shot... that generally missed wide.
It was frustrating, because Justin Brownlee can drive, he can pull up, he can draw fouls. He doesn't need to settle with 25 seconds left on the shot clock. Tonight, perhaps in an attempt to will the team back with Hero Shots, he lost the discipline that served him so well this season. He's been a star precisely because he knows when to shoot. Granted, in this game, the team had no one else to score.
But still... there has to be a better, more patient way.
Get Physical. St. John's got physical. Too physical, with too many fouls in the first half. In this game, though, the Irish were the aggressive, fighting to good post position, fighting to get the Red Storm to shoot bad shots, harassing passes. Ben Hansbrough and the Irish were in control, running their offense fluidly. D+
Defend the Perimeter. Despite the Irish's 36.4% perimeter shooting, they had open shots, and the Johnnies' defense was a step slow for much of the game. C
Post Activity. St. John's did draw a decent share of fouls - especially in the beginning of the second half - but were generally passive, spending possessions passing the ball around the perimeter. And as mentioned earlier, the team didn't get many good looks inside; Justin Burrell had 3 shots. Coker and Evans had 5 shots, 4 close-in, and they missed all 4. D-
Extra Possessions. I didn't anticipate the Red Storm coughing up 15 turnovers to Notre Dame. That diminishes the impact of any offensive rebounding or steals - St. John's needed scoring possessions to beat Notre Dame, and it didn't happen tonight. C-
Transition Points. St. John's wasn't able to really get out and beat the Irish down the floor for easy points; most of their points were hard to earn. C
IV. News Coverage
NY Newsday: Irish hit threes as Storm fizzles early
AOL Fanhouse: St. John's Slapped Back to Reality by Notre Dame
Chicago Sun-Times: Irish enjoy cruise after hot 1st half
Chicago Tribune: Notre Dame dumps St. John's 76-61
NY Times/ AP: Notre Dame Slams Door on St. John’s Win Streak
Irish Eyes: ND building momentum, pummels St. John’s