St. John’s led by as many as seven in the first half and took a four-point lead into halftime, but made just five field goals as part of a 14-point second half effort as Notre Dame shot 68.0 percent (17-of-25) after the break and rolled to a 66-40 victory against the Red Storm.
“You don’t have to look beyond the second half shooting percentages to realize what the difference was in this game,” said St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin. “We were able to keep Notre Dame in check during the first half, but they pounded us in the paint during the second half with high percentage shots.”
JaKarr Sampson finished with a team-high 12 points, while Sir’Dominic Pointer had seven points, 12 boards, four assists and four blocks to lead St. John’s (16-13, 8-9). Phil Greene IV added 10 points and Chris Obekpahad two points, five rebounds and four blocks. The Red Storm shot 41.4 percent (12-of-29) in the first half, but just 18.5 percent (5-of-27) after the break. St. John’s went 0-of-9 from distance in the second half and finished just 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) from long range in the game.
Pointer, who was ejected along with Notre Dame’s Cameron Biedscheid for fighting with 1:46 remaining in the game, will both miss the next games on the schedule, per NCAA rule. Amir Garrett, who finished with five points and five rebounds, was ejected for leaving the bench and his status for the next game will be reviewed by the Big East Conference.
“Dom apologized for losing his composure and will serve his penalty by missing the final game against Marquette. We have to demonstrate more maturity than we did tonight. We want to play with intensity, but also use intelligence in order to play a winning brand of basketball,” said Lavin.
St. John’s also issued this statement on Wednesday: ““The University expects its student-athletes, coaches and athletics personnel to conduct themselves appropriately in representing St. John’s both on and off the court. We regret the incident at Notre Dame and will not tolerate this unsportsmanlike behavior. Coach Lavin, his staff and team have continued a tradition of integrity associated with our men’s basketball program and will deal with this isolated incident accordingly.”
Jerian Grant scored 21 points to lead Notre Dame (23-7, 11-6), while Jack Cooley had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Eric Atkins added 15 to give the Fighting Irish three players in double-figures. Notre Dame finished 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) from long range and posted a +2 margin (36-34) on the boards.
Notre Dame quickly pulled even in the second half and leveled the score at 28-28 with 15:44 left in regulation. The teams were tied again at 30-30 before an Atkins 3 and a Cooley layup-and-one capped an 11-2 run that put the Irish up 41-32 at the 10:30 mark. After a Sampson layup pulled the Red Storm to within seven, Notre Dame went on a 10-0 run over the next 4:09 and led 51-34 with just 5:49 remaining in regulation. A Greene jumper with 4:24 to play marked the last field goal of the game for St. John’s and a 3 by Grant gave the Irish its largest lead of the game at 66-38.
The teams were tied at 10-10 with 9:15 to go in the first half before St. John’s went on a 6-0 run to lead 16-10 with 7:51 left. The Irish retook the lead, 19-18, on a Grant 3, but a Pointer trey capped an 8-0 run as the Red Storm jumped out to a 26-19 advantage with just 1:00 left in the half. Atkins swished a 3-pointer seconds before the halftime buzzer and St. John’s took a 26-22 lead into the locker room.
The regular season wraps up with a visit from Marquette at The Garden on Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
Release: St. John’s Athletics
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.