The Big Apple awaits Notre Dame as they'll travel to New York City to face St. John's (11-8, 2-4) at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 PM. The Irish are 16-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big East, just one game back of No. 9 Pittsburgh (5-1). They're ranked in both polls, 22nd in the Associated Press and 21st in the Coaches. But there's one glaring hole on a resume destined for the NCAA Tournament.
That would be a true road win. They did beat Maryland in Washington, D.C. but the game wasn't at Terrapins home gym. It was held at the Verizon Center. The two conference road tests left many questions. In a 66-48 defeat to Georgetown, the Irish were down 21 at halftime and shot 30 percent for the game. The Hoyas shot 57 percent. In last Wednesday's 102-87 loss at Villanova, again a lack of defense hurt Notre Dame. The Wildcats shot 56 percent from the field. Georgetown and Villanova also outrebounded the Irish to assert dominance in the paint area.
"I think you have to give a lot of credit to the two teams we played," Brey said. "They are NCAA Tournament teams. They're very physically gifted and their speed and ability bothered us in transition and on the offensive boards."
The questions will continue for Notre Dame until it's proven they can win on the road. Chance number three comes on Tuesday night. St. John's is coming off a 64-60 upset win over Syracuse. Down 58-57, the Red Storm's Avery Patterson hit two three-pointers in the final 1:30 to save the game. The Orange had come into the game winners of six of seven and alone in second place in the league. Once again, the home team protected their court.
St. John's has had an up-and-down season. After going 2-3 through five games, the Red Storm rattled off seven straight wins to improve to 9-3. But a 12-point defeat to Hofstra sent them spiraling downwards a bit. They proceeded to lose five of six before scoring the upset win over Syracuse on Sunday. St. John's knows how to defend. They're fourth in the Big East in field goal percentage defense but second to last in scoring offense.
"They have the body types where a missed shot might be their best offensive possession," Brey said about the Red Storm. "We will be challenged, only farther north. We're working our way up I-95 to get this thing done. We have to keep people out of the paint and block out. They are going to be key things against St. John's. Transition defense early in the game hurt us. That's something we have to address."
Lamont Hamilton is St. John's best player. The 6-10 senior forward leads the team in scoring at 13 PPG and in rebounds at 6.9 a contest. Hamilton scored a season-high 36 points earlier in the year in a victory over Columbia and has recorded four double-doubles in 2006-07. Patterson, a 6-4 junior guard, is second on the team in scoring at 11 PPG and he's fifth in the league in three-pointers made per contest. The point guard, Eugene Lawrence, ranks third in the conference in assists. The 6-1 guard dishes out five assists a game.