Tuesday, January 15, 2013

St. John's 67, Notre Dame 63: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Despite season-high 21 points and six steals from Eric Atkins, Notre Dame couldn't shake St. John's as Red Storm defeat the 20th-ranked Irish 67-63 at Madison Square Garden.  (Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey's opening statement:
"I loved how we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win.  They made big buckets and big free throws.  Their ball pressure really bothered us."

On playing Tom Knight over Jack Cooley in the second half:
"He gave us great energy.  That's a real bright spot for us to build on."

On St. John's in general:
"They guarded the heck out of us with their speed.  Over the course of time, it wore on us.  We really have to make shots to escape on the road against them."

Junior guard Eric Atkins (21 points, 6 steals, 4 assists) on St. John's:
"We really couldn't get any offensive rhythm in those last two minutes just because of their ball pressure."

St. John's guard D'Angelo Harrison (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) on tonight's game:
"We just basically pressured the ball.  I know they had easy shots, but when it was time to lock up, we did.  We knew they were going to come back.  (Jerian) Grant threw the ball away, so we did a good job in coverage."

On his block in the final seconds that turned out to be the game-winner:
"He (Tom Knight) didn't see me, so I reached up and grabbed the ball out."

Forward Amir Garrett (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) on St. John's mindset:
"We came out very intense today.  Coming off a loss to Georgetown, that wasn't the way we played."

St. John's head coach Steve Lavin's opening statement:
"Expect the unexpected, buckle up, and enjoy the wild roller coaster ride."

On St. John's 2-3 start in Big East play:
"We're a whisker from being 4-1. (in league play)  You're never as good or as bad as you feel.  We're somewhere in between."

On the state of his team despite its relative inexperience:
"It's tough when there's no one with postseason experience.  It's a really unprecedented, unusual situation.  Out of the ashes of the UNC Asheville and Villanova games, I could tell we were going to be competitive.  I never get too down after a loss, I never get too high after a win."

On Notre Dame:
"They play very similar to those international teams: Lithuania, Argentina, Spain.  We just had to stay attached on the weak side.  From possession to possession, we made a lot of adjustments.  There were so many aspects of the game that I'm going to enjoy watching.  Georgetown wasn't so enjoyable."

On Notre Dame's strength:
"Where they kill you is if you give them air space.  If they're able to 'window shop' over the top, either as transporters or shooters, you're done."

On Christian Jones, who has not played major minutes recently:
"We don't win the game without his contributions. Everyone played a part tonight.  It was what I like to call a 'collective win.'"

On D'Angelo Harrison:
"I thought this was the most mature game of his career."

On his team's performance tonight:
"Tonight, they really grew up, but it doesn't mean anything.  We have to do it at DePaul now."

Nuggets of Note:
- Tonight's win extended a nine-year winning streak for St. John's over Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.  The last time the Fighting Irish walked out of the "World's Most Famous Arena" with a victory over the Red Storm was on March 5th, 2004, when this writer was a senior in high school and five months away from turning 18.

- The win was also the ninth for head coach Steve Lavin against a Top 25 opponent since replacing Norm Roberts as head coach, and the third consecutive against Notre Dame when the Irish entered the game as a ranked team.

- St. John's closed the game on an 8-2 run after an Eric Atkins layup gave Notre Dame a 61-59 lead.  For the second year in a row, Mike Brey's late-game coaching left something to be desired.  Last season, he left a timeout in his pocket on the final possession as Alex Dragicevich missed a three-pointer in the final seconds that would have sent the game to overtime; while this season, he again kept a timeout going into the last ten seconds, this time using it with seven seconds remaining after D'Angelo Harrison's block on Tom Knight that subsequently led to St. John's shooting free throws on the other end.

- Notre Dame, who entered tonight's contest shooting 42 percent from three-point range as a team, only made one of the nine trifectas they attempted.  It seemed like Mike Brey was trying to defeat the Red Storm from inside, (as evidenced by Jack Cooley's easy looks under the rim and Notre Dame outscoring St. John's 44-24 in the paint) as Pat Connaughton's triple with just over nine minutes remaining in regulation was the only shot the Irish made from beyond the arc.

- Plagued by foul trouble in the first half, Jack Cooley only played 18 minutes tonight, and Brey kept him on the bench through most of the second half in favor of 6-10 fifth-year senior Tom Knight, whom the coach mentioned "gave us great energy" that Notre Dame (now 14-3 after tonight's loss) can build on in the future.

- Finally, with all the various combinations Steve Lavin has created with his lineup, the third-year Red Storm coach might want to consider using D'Angelo Harrison at the point guard position.  With all due respect to Jamal Branch and Phil Greene, it just seems like the patented half-court offense employed by St. John's is just more fluid with Harrison at the controls.  Tonight, the sophomore Texan was not at his best shooting the lights out of the arena as he normally does, but rather facilitating plays and setting his teammates up for smarter and more efficient looks at the basket.  It's just something to consider, but Harrison revealed a new facet of his game tonight that should get more time to shine as the season continues on.

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