After winning their opening-round games, the 20th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Saint Joseph's Hawks meet in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with the winner moving on to play either BYU or Florida State in the championship bout.
Notre Dame won its 14th consecutive season opener last Saturday against Evansville (58-49), and it followed that up with a convincing 84-57 victory over Monmouth on Tuesday to get off to a 2-0 start for the sixth year in a row. The Irish have won 102 of their last 109 home games, but they depart from friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion for the first time this season.
Saint Joseph's had just one preliminary game for the Classic, stifling Yale at home on Monday night, 61-35. The defensive effort was an amazing accomplished for the Hawks, as the 35 points allowed is their lowest total for an opponent during the shot-clock era.
Notre Dame won the only previous meeting between these two squads, 68-65, back in December of 1992.
After shooting just 40 percent from the field in the opener, Notre Dame bounced back nicely against Monmouth by connecting on better than 53 percent of its field goal attempts. Despite the improvement, the Irish still aren't where they'd like to be in terms of three-point shooting as they've drained just 26.3 percent of their long-range tries (10-of-38). Garrick Sherman was the unlikely spark plug in the win over Monmouth, scoring 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting while adding nine rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Jack Cooley also narrowly missed a double-double with 16 points and nine boards, and he is averaging 17.5 ppg and 10.0 rpg in the early going. After winning the Big East Conference's Most Improved Player award a year ago, Cooley will now assume the role of top scoring threat in the Notre Dame frontcourt. Pat Connaughton chipped in with 13 points and handed out five of the team's 24 assists in the recent win.
Saint Joseph's record-setting defensive effort was clearly the story in its opening win, as it held Harvard to just 25 percent shooting and forced five more turnovers (18) than the Crimson had field goals (13). It was merely an average night for the offense however, as the Hawks drained 42.9 percent of their field goal attempts, including a lowly 3-of-14 showing from three-point range. Langston Galloway was anything but ordinary, as he tallied a team-high 20 points and added six assists and three steals. The junior was named to the All-Atlantic 10 Conference Second Team a year ago (15.5 ppg) and he will once again be a crucial part of a very balanced scoring attack. Both Ronald Roberts (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Halil Kanacevic (11 points, 11 rebounds) recorded double-doubles. Last year's leading scorer, Carl Jones (17.0 ppg), will miss this clash as he continues to serve a three-game suspension.