South Bend, IN – In their final home game of the season the No. 24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the St. John's Red Storm with revenge of their mind in a Big East brawl at Purcell Pavilion.
The Red Storm were considered a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament a few weeks ago but those aspirations have likely evaporated. St. John's has lost four of its last five games with the lone win against last place South Florida. St. John's is 16-12 overall and an even 8-8 in Big East action with a home game against No. 15 Marquette the last game on the docket.
It was that same Golden Eagles that Notre Dame fell to last time out. The Irish had won four of their previous five games before that and are currently 22-7 overall this season. In league play the Irish have a 10-6 mark which has them tied with No. 17 Syracuse for fifth in the crowded Big East standings. Notre Dame is an impressive 16-2 at Purcell Pavilion this season but wraps up the campaign on the road against No. 8 Louisville on Saturday.
The Red Storm ended the contest on a 6-1 spurt to pull off the upset 67-63 against Notre Dame in the first meeting this season. The Red Storm have now won three straight against the Fighting Irish but still trail the all-time series by the slimmest of margins (20-19).
JaKarr Sampson scored 22 points and Sur'Dominic Pointer posted a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) but it still wasn't enough in the Red Storm's 62-59 loss to Providence. The Red Storm missed their last three field goal attempts in the three-point loss.
The Red Storm lost a ton of punch when D'Angelo Harrison (17.8 ppg) was suspended for the remainder of the season on Friday. Sampson (15.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is now the only player left on the roster scoring in double figures and one of just two putting in more than nine points per game. Phil Greene IV (9.2 ppg) is the other, although his inconsistent shooting as kept him from being a very productive scorer. Chris OBekpa (3.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 bpg) anchors the Red Storm's impressive defensive efforts with his ability to protect the rim. Led by Obekpa, the Red Storm lead the country in blocked shots (7.3 bpg).
In a battle of top-25 teams, Notre Dame bowed to Marquette in a 72-64 decision last time on the floor. Jerian Grant paced the Fighting Irish with 21 points and five assists but the team shot at just a 38.3 percent clip in the contest, while hitting just 7-of-25 from beyond the arc.
Grant (13.3 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Eric Atkins (11.7 ppg, 6.0 apg) have been a strong backcourt tandem for the Irish with their efficient scoring and ability to facilitate the offense for the Irish. Double-double machine Jack Cooley (13.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg) anchors the team from the inside and opens up the floor for the rest of Notre Dame's shooters. Cooley leads the Big East in rebounding and has hung up 18 double-doubles, the fourth most in the country. Led by that trio the Irish have been as fundamentally sound as they come on offense. They rank in the top 25 in the country and at the top of the Big East in assists (17.6 pg) and field-goal percentage (.473).