Brey asked his team, "Can we win a game like this in March when it's a single elimination situation, whether it's in New York or in the NCAA Tournament? I kept coming back to that, even in the second half."
St. John's pressured the perimeter to keep ND's three point shooters from getting enough good looks to get hot, and it ran a deliberate offense that routinely ran the shot clock to single digits. The score wasn't high, but the Irish offense was efficient. They made 28 of their 54 shots from the field, 54%; and they assisted on 19 of the 28 baskets, 68%. The Irish lead the nation in assists per game.
The ND players prefer a faster pace to their games; but Rob Kurz noted that, "One of the good things about it was that we showed we can win another way."
Despite the efficiency, the players weren't satisfied. "We want to shoot 70, 80 percent," Tory Jackson said after the game. "We have high standards, individually and as a team."
Kurz played the last home game of his Notre Dame career on Wednesday. "I can't believe it went by so fast," he said. "To finish 2 years undefeated is unbelievable."
Brey will miss Kurz's leadership. "(As the team leader) He handled stuff I don't even know about, and that's what a real good captain does. He's done it with a lot of grace and done it very wisely. He has the respect of the young guys on our team."
Brey gives Kurz a healthy share of credit for the team's unselfishness. "You can't have this kind of karma unless you have really good older guys. Last year, Carter and Falls delivered for us; and Kurz certainly has done that this year."
The Stat Sheet
Jackson led the ND with 8 assists and Zach Hillesland added 6, mostly after taking the ball into the lane, as the Red Storm's emphasis on preventing three point attempts left the lane vulnerable to the Irish slashers. "It's the way we adjusted to how they defended us," said Brey.
Odd stat of the day - The Irish have led the Big East in rebounding margin throughout the season, but they lost the battle of the boards to St. John's 31-29. It's the third time in the last four games that an opponent won the rebounding battle. ND won those three games and lost when they out-rebounded Louisville.
Despite being the smallest player on the court almost every game, Jackson is averaging 5.6 rebounds in conference games. He has 5 rebounds Wednesday, second to Harangody's 6. Jackson was relieved that he didn't lead the team. "Yes!" he exclaimed when he saw the stat sheet. "The last time they let me have it Gody was beating me up all day at the next practice."
The Irish will travel to Tampa to take on Kentrell Gransberry and the South Florida Bulls on Saturday evening. Gransberry is second in the conference in rebounding (11.0) and fifth in scoring (17.8). Freshman guard Dominique Jones is the sixth leading scorer (17.4). "It's going to be a grind-it-out game down there, too," Jackson said.
Brey knows what can keep his team from taking the game for granted. "What helps us is seeding for New York; seeding for the NCAA Tournament; and like this team (SJU), they beat our butts down there last year."