After two straight losses on their first Big East home-stand of the season, the St. John’s Red Storm (10-7, 2-3) would look for a win against the #20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-3, 2-2.)
St. John’s had won their last four games against the Fighting Irish when the two teams played at Madison Square Garden. Double double machine Jack Cooley would look to end that streak for Notre Dame.
Things would look good early for Cooley as he got it started for the Irish with a dunk on a pass from Jerian Grant. Grant then extended the lead with a bucket of his own to give Notre Dame a 4-0 edge 2 minutes in.
It looked like the Storm would be off to one of their patented slow starts, that was until Phil Greene and Amir Garret each added four points to keep St. John’s close. With 15 minutes to go, they trailed 10-8.
“We came out very intense today. You know, coming off a loss to Georgetown; that definitely wasn’t the way that we play.” Garret said of the early effort. “We had a good few days of practice, so we knew we just had to come out hard today.”
Notre Dame continued to maintain their lead for the next 10 minutes, but they were never able to get ahead by more than five points. St. John’s would take advantage, and with 4 minutes remaining in the first, Jakarr Sampson gave the Storm their first lead of the game, 26-25.
Sampson would help St. John’s keep their upset hopes alive scoring 14 points in the first half. Those would be enough to give the Red Storm a 32-31 lead after the games first 20 minutes.
Following a Sir’Dom Pointer basket, the Irish went on a 6-0 run to retake the lead. Phil Greene responded with the first three pointer of the game for either team, tying it up at 37 points apiece.
The Storm would keep their foot on the pedal, and following another bucket for the Irish, St. John’s went on an 10-0 run take a 47-39 lead with 12 minutes left in the game.
Notre Dame finally broke the run after Jerian Grant hit two free throws, but Amir Garret came back the other way with a three point play. D’Angelo Harrison would then get three points of his own after hitting a deep shot from downtown. At the half way mark of the second, the Storm led 55-45.
Following four Notre Dame points, a Pat Connaughton three would get the Irish within 5 points. St. John’s finally ended a 7-0 Notre Dame run after a Sampson jumper, and with 7 to play the lead shrunk to 57-52.
The lead continued to dwindle for the Storm, and the Irish tied the game once again with 5 to go, 59-59. They then took the lead on their next possession as Eric Atkins sunk a floater, giving him 21 points on the night.
D’Angelo Harrison would take an errant elbow from an Irish player that left him dripping blood. After an official review however it was found that Chris Obekpa was the one that smacked Dee in the nose, which would keep St. John’s off the line.
After both teams traded buckets, the bloodied Harrison hit a three to give the Storm the advantage once again. With two minutes to play St. John’s led 64-63.
With 30 seconds to go the Irish had a chance to take the lead. Harrison managed his third block of the game and then sent Sampson to the line, where he hit one of two free throws. On the next Notre Dame possession Obekpa had a huge block that gave the Storm the ball.
“He didn’t see me, so I watch how the other guys block shots during practice.” Harrison said of his crunch time block. “I went up with two hands to contest the shot and got the ball.”
The Red Storm would hold on to beat the #20 Irish by a final of 67-63. St. John’s held Jack Cooley to just 10 points and 5 rebounds. Despite only 8 points for Harrison, his game saving block was enough to lead the Storm to victory.
St. John’s will look to keep things going as they head to Chigaco January 19 to play Depaul, a game that will be played at 12 P.M.