St. John’s Looking to Turn It’s Luck Against Notre Dame

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s home stand will come to an end Tuesday night against the #20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Garden. This home stand has not been kind to the Red Storm as they have lost the first two games. One a down to the wire chess match with Rutgers and the other, an early morning blow out against Georgetown.

This game could mark one of the final times St. John’s and Notre Dame meet as both teams are leaving the Big East Conference. Last year the two teams met at the Garden and the Red Storm was able to pull the upset against the ranked Irish with a 61-58 win.

Game Information
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Location: Madison Square Garden- New York, New York
Time: 7:00 PM EST

TV: ESPN2 (Mike Patrick, Bobby Knight)
Radio: WBBR 1130 AM (John Minko)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-2, 2-1)
Head Coach: Mike Brey

The Fighting Irish are coming into the matchup with the Red Storm after losing only their second game of the season to Connecticut at home. But even with that loss, the Irish come into the Garden as perhaps coach Mike Breys best team to date. The Irish play small with four starting guards to go along with Jack Cooley. The senior Cooley is averaging 15.1 points per game to go along with 11.1 rebounds. The big banger in the post has developed over his four years into a great player and someone to be watched.

Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are the top guards on the team. Grant, son of Harvey Grant and nephew of Horace Grant is the teams top scoring guard as a sophomore. The fearless Grant averages 12.6 and 5.1 assists per game and is quick with the dribble and can score when he has to.

As for Atkins, he can be a pain also for opposing teams, against Connecticut Atkins brought the Irish back with six straight points in a minute to tie the game up. Atkins averages 11.6 points per game as well as 7 assists. Atkins and Grant are double threat guards who will be a handful for St. John’s.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F Jack Cooley
G Eric Atkins
G Scott Martin
G Jerian Grant
G Pat Connaughton

St. John’s (9-7, 1-3)
Head Coach: Steve Lavin

A first half breakdown against Georgetown on Saturday and the Red Storm are quickly 1-3 in Big East play and looking to finally defend their home court with a big game against Notre Dame. But even with a losing week there were some bright spots, including the Big East Rookie of the Week honors for Chris Obekpa. The first time receiving this award, Obekpa is honored for his defense after averaging 10.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots in two games. Obekpa has cleaned up the glass nicely and has helped the team rebounding efforts of the Red Storm.

Another bright spot for the Storm was Jamal Branch finally had a break out game against Georgetown. In 29 minutes Branch scored 16 points on 7-11 shooting from the field. With D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene struggling it could be a huge boost if Branch could score and pass the ball.

Projected Starting Lineup:
F JaKarr Sampson
F Amir Garrett
C Chris Obekpa
G Phil Greene
G D’Angelo Harrison


Keys to Victory

▪    They’re Called FREE for a Reason Part Deux- The new bugaboo for this Red Storm team seems to be the free throw. After going 15-27 against Rutgers they turned around and shot 6-16 against Georgetown. Even 76% free throw shooter D’Angelo Harrison went 1-4 from the line. This disease needs to be cured quickly if St. John’s hopes to play beyond their schedule.
▪    Obekpa, the record breaker- Chris Obekpa finally surpassed Walter Berry as the single season shot blocking king. Berry had 76 blocked shots during the ’85-86 season and Obekpa already has 82 through 16 games.
▪    Struggling – You expect D’Angelo Harrison to be lights out every time he takes the floor, but the sophomore guard is in a bit of a funk. Against Georgetown, Harrison shot 3-12 from the field and 0-5 from three to the tune of only seven points. Harrison went for 20 points against Rutgers but still shot poorly from the field only 5-15 and 2-8 from three.
▪    The PGIV Problem- Phil Greene has been struggling to say the least. Getting shutout against Georgetown on 0-4 shooting, recording no assists and playing only 16 minutes it is obvious there might be something wrong with Greene. Greene, who started the year as one of the most improved, hasn’t been himself lately.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame Wins, 65-55

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