Notre Dame storms past St. John's with 83-73 win
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Associate Sports Editor
Notre Dame was losing the battle of the boards, struggling to hold its own in a brawl where the fouls weren't getting called.
Then the blue and gold got their Irish up. Notre Dame (15-5, 7-2 Big East) showed St. John's (12-9, 6-4) whose house it was, manhandling the Red Storm with a 26-2 run that left no question which was the better squad as Notre Dame won 83-73.
Early on, the two teams jawed back and forth, exchanging elbows and shoves, with tempers ready to explode. Several fouls called on Notre Dame players and non-calls against St. John's drew roars of boos from the Joyce Center crowd.
"It was a rough game," Irish guard David Graves said. "They're hard-nosed and gritty."
After falling behind by as many as 10 early in the second half, the Irish began creeping closer and closer to the Red Storm.
First came a jumper by senior captain Martin Ingelsby, then a one-handed tip-in by All-American Troy Murphy, two free throws by Matt Carroll and a top-of-the-key 3-pointer by Graves.
With Notre Dame trailing 52-49, Ingelsby took on lightning-quick Omar Cook, the freshman point guard who averages 16 points and a nation-high 9.1 assists per game. Ingelsby just missed the steal, stepping out of bounds, but he got the crowd riled up. The normally calm and collected point guard fluttered his hands to ask for some noise, and teammates Carroll and Graves pumped their hands to ignite the fans.
"Our fans really helped us tonight," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "I thought when we were down five or six in the second half, they started helping us then, not just when we tied it or got it close or took the lead.
But it was only after two Anthony Glover free throws gave St. John's a 54-49 lead that Notre Dame really responded.
With 10 minutes, 27 seconds to play, Carroll sent the ball in to Murphy for a dunk. At the other end, junior power forward Ryan Humphrey recorded one of his five blocks to return possession to Notre Dame. The power play kicked off the longest and most crowd-pleasing spurt of Irish dominance seen since the current players were in playpens.
"They're doing something right now that we are not ready to do," Red Storm coach Mike Jarvis said, "and that is just playing for 40 minutes. ... I don't think it was as much what they did. I think it was more what we didn't do."
St. John's couldn't stop Carroll, as the 3-point specialist hit his only trey in the game. The game tied at 54, the three Irish guards again raised their hands to the crowd to make some noise.
Graves swiped the ball from the Red Storm, and on the fast break, Carroll launched it to Humphrey. The 6-foot-8 transfer caught the ball in midair and jammed it through the hoop two-handed.
"Ryan's a guy who can make plays like that," Brey said. "It was a big momentum play for us. It really got us going."
This time, no one had to ask the crowd for excitement. The whole arena was on its feet, and the players had grins larger than Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire Cat on their faces. St. John's quickly called a timeout, hoping to stop the Notre Dame run at seven, but it would never regain the lead.
St. John's threw the ball out of bounds on its next possession, and Humphrey kept the good times rolling. He hit a jumper off the dribble, then thumped his chest as Notre Dame took a 58-54 lead. At the other end, the momentum player pulled down a defensive rebound despite getting fouled.
"In the first half, we felt like they outworked us," Humphrey said. "I just tried to come out and give energy."
The electricity flowed right to his teammates, as after a 30-second Notre Dame timeout, Carroll dished off another assist, this time to Murphy, who pivoted around the Red Storm's Donald Emanuel for two of his 34 points.
"A lot of them were easy shots set up by my teammates," Murphy said. "You can't do much with a layup."
Emanuel narrowed the gap to four with a shot over Humphrey. That was the last time St. John's would score until Notre Dame held a 75-56 lead and less than three minutes remained in regulation.
"We knew that we were going to score," Graves said. "It's just the fact, `Can we guard people? Can we shut them down?', and in that stretch, we really did that."
Emanuel fouled out, hitting Humphrey as he brought down a rebound, and the normally poor free throw shooter nailed them both.
He banged in the first shot off the backboard, eliciting a smile from Brey, and swished the second, which brought a sigh of relief from the Notre Dame head coach.
A travel by St. John's Kyle Cuffe turned into another Irish scoring opportunity. Ingelsby hiked it upcourt on the break for one of his nine assists, giving it to Murphy, who was fouled and hit both free throws.
Murphy blew by two defenders underneath the hoop on the next possession, laying in the reverse layup to give Notre Dame a 66-56 lead.
The 6-10 junior rebounded a Humphrey miss, and Red Storm reserve Mohamed Diakite knocked Murphy to the ground in going for the ball to pick up his fifth foul. Murphy hit both free throws.
Humphrey picked up one of his 11 rebounds at the defensive end. He then dished off an assist to Ingelsby, who slapped in a 3-pointer.
St. John's called another timeout with 4:25 to go, but Humphrey blocked the Red Storm's next shot. Ingelsby then exchanged the favor of a moment before, hitting Humphrey in the paint for a bang-in bucket. Fouled on the shot, Humphrey missed the free throw, but Murphy capped off the Irish explosion by tipping in the rebound for a 75-56 Notre Dame lead.
St. John's managed to score 15 points in the final three minutes to lose by a more respectable 10-point margin. The win, however — Notre Dame's sixth straight — was in the bag well before Notre Dame allowed the Red Storm any of those baskets.
While the second half was all spurts and streaks, the first half was back-and-forth. The lead changed hands 14 times in the opening stanza, with seven ties thrown in for good measure.
"We were beating ourselves," Graves said. "We let 13 offensive rebounds go. They were quicker to the ball, and that's a credit to Coach Jarvis and the kind of ball his teams play."
Although Notre Dame shot 50 percent in the first 20 minutes, St. John's notched 7-for-11 shooting from behind the arc, all on shots by freshmen Cook and Willie Shaw. In the second period, the Irish muzzled both Cook and Shaw, holding them to three second-half points until the final three minutes of play.
Meanwhile, St. John's struggled from inside the arc, shooting just 31 percent on 2-point field goals.
They missed a number of shots in the paint, with post players Cuffe, Emanuel and Glover going a combined 8-for-32.
"Almost every one of those shots was inside," Jarvis said. "You've got to finish. You've got to finish."
Notre Dame finished the job Tuesday.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, February 6, 2001