Red Storm junior D.J. Kennedy knocked down a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds remaining to give the visitors a one-point edge. Bereft of timeouts, Irish point guard Tory Jackson launched a 20-footer from the left wing that bounced short. The ensuing scramble gave Jackson a desperation 18-foot shot at the buzzer but his partially blocked offering fell well-short as the final gun sounded.
"With 12 seconds left and no timeouts you're not running anything. They really smother you," Brey offered of the final moments and Red Storm defensive effort as a whole. "I thought (Jackson) could drive it a little bit there but they took that drive away.
"But you have to get something going to the basket…I thought Tory could get in there and kick to a shooter maybe, but he couldn't get in there."
The Irish trailed by seven, 45-38 with just under 16 minutes to play, but responded with a 15-7 run to take a one-point lead, 53-52 at the 7:11 mark. The lead exchanged hands four times before Anthony Mason Jr. drilled a deep wing three to give the visitors a 62-58 edge with under four minutes remaining.
The Irish fought back to take a 66-64 lead with 1:29 to play. A deep 3-point bucket from the left wing by backup guard Dwight Hardy gave the Red Storm a one-point lead but Notre Dame answered with two Tyrone Nash free throws and a 68-67 advantage with 38 seconds remaining.
Following a St. John's timeout, Kennedy found room over the left side to earn a trip to the charity stripe and the resulting game-winning free throws.
"One of those two stops you have to get," Brey explained. "Hardy's three or Kennedy's drive, that's how you have to win it…couldn't get it."
"Hardy made big plays all night. He was really hard for us to deal with," Brey said of the Red Storm backup guard who lead the visitors with 16 points off the bench including a 5-7 effort from long range.
The game featured 12 lead changes and 8 ties.
After falling behind 22-14 on a Tim Abromaitis 3-pointer with 9:40 remaining, the Red Storm finished the half on a 23-12 run. Most of the damage was done outside the paint including five shots from beyond the arc (three by Hardy) and two more jumpers, the last by point guard Malik Boothe (a 31% shooter) to end the half.
The visitors, 31-percent three-point shooters as a unit entering the contest, knocked down 7 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc while the Irish were only able to squeeze off six (hitting four) in the first 20 minutes.
Boothe frustrated Jackson with his low defensive base and quick feet, harassing the senior point guard into a 1 for 10 shooting night and five turnovers. The streaky senior had hit 16 of his previous 25 shots from the field, breaking out of what had been a unsettling home court shooting slump (2-24 entering last Sunday's win vs. South Florida).
"He can really defend," Brey said of Boothe. "I think it was a tough rhythm for Tory, especially in the first half. It was very uncharacteristic of him (the turnovers). He was coming off a game where he scored for us and we probably figured he needed to score with ‘Gody out, but it's a fine line of forcing plays…"
St. John's head coach Norm Roberts lauded the defensive effort of his 5'9" junior guard.
"It was huge. We talked to Malik about that because Tory had been playing well…and for Malik to hold him to 1 for 10…and even for Tory to have five turnovers that doesn't really happen."
Junior forward Tyrone Nash scored a career-high 16 points in 38 minutes as Notre Dame's only inside presence. "I thought Ty Nash was fabulous for us," Brey stated. "We played off of him like (we do) ‘Gody.
"We played inside-out off of Ty Nash to give ourselves a chance. We asked him to do everything: he's guarding (Justin) Burrell; he's posting and playing like 'Gody and he's bringing the ball up the floor against pressure...he gave us everything he had tonight."
Tim Abromaitis led all scorers with 24 points (7-11 from the field) and tied for the team lead with Carleton Scott at six boards apiece.
Ben Hansbrough added 13 points, 10 in the first half and the senior failed to score in the final 14-plus minutes
The Irish bench was outscored 32 to 7 with Hardy's 16 and backup post-player Justin Burrell (12 points and 3 assists) doing most of the damage.
Notre Dame (6-7) has two days to prepare for its next game on Wednesday, February 21 as the Irish travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals (7-5)
- Tim Abromaitis extended his streak of consecutive free throws to 30 before leaving one short near the end of the first half.
- St. John's head coach Norm Roberts enlisted the services of 11 players in the first half, outscoring Notre Dame's bench 18-2 over the first 20 minutes. 10 Red Storm players logged between eight and 35 minutes on the evening.
- Notre Dame's guard tandem of Ben Hansbrough and Tory Jackson, ranked No. 3 and No. 5 respectively entering the contest in assist-to-turnover ratio, combined for just two assists and six turnovers in the first half with six assists vs. seven turnovers serving as the final tally for the game.
- Tory Jackson moved into a tie with current Notre Dame Director of Basketball Operations Harold Swanagan (1998-02) into fifth-place on the program's games played list with 125. Jackson likewise tied ex-Irish center Torin Francis (2002-06) with his 113th career start, the fourth highest total in team history.
- Jackson has hit just 14 of his 54 field goal attempts in seven league games played at the Purcell Pavilion this season. Conversely, he's connected on 27 of 53 attempts in six conference road tilts.
- Both Tyrone Nash (38) and Carleton Scott (27) posted career-bests in minutes played.
- Head coach Mike Brey is now 11-10 in games decided by exactly one point. The Irish are 30-35 during Brey's tenure in games decided by three or fewer points.
- With the loss, Brey remains stuck at 98 career Big East victories, the sixth-highest total in league history.