Jan. 28, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame thrives on home stands.
Irish coach Matt Doherty and his team appreciates the familiar surroundings, the home court and the crowd. Last Tuesday, the Irish lost for the first time since early December on their home floor.
Notre Dame wants nothing more to claim a win on Saturday and reestablish the team’s home court advantage. The Irish will have a tough time doing that because Saturday’s opponent is the 25th ranked Red Storm of St. John’s.
The Red Storm is currently ranked second in the Big East. The team is tied with Seton Hall with both teams boasting a record of 5-1. St. John’s only conference loss came at the hands of Seton Hall.
The Irish enter Saturday’s game after a tough loss to Miami. Notre Dame is currently 3-3 in the Big East and is tied with four other teams for sole possession of fourth place.
“I think that we have to really work on our execution,” Doherty said. “We have to rely on our execution because we don’t have one player that can break the defense down. We need to make sure we remember our plays and set good screens. If we don’t then we end up shooting contested jump shots and shooting low percentages.”
Notre Dame knows how those low percentages can drain a team. The Irish shot just 32 percent from the field against the Hurricanes. In the past four games, the Irish have scored 60 points or less in three of the contests.
“I thought our defense was pretty good,” Doherty said about the Miami game. “Our zone was not too great but our man-to-man was good. I think that those are some positives.”
Just like any other coach, Doherty wants his team to learn from its mistakes. The team did exactly that at Thursday’s film session. Doherty tested the team with situations and let the team figure out what to do.
“The Miami game was where some our execution mistakes were exposed,” Doherty said.
Notre Dame will have to quickly repair those execution mistakes when they face St. John’s. The Red Storm thrives on the other team’s mistakes. St. John’s is ranked first in steals in the Big East, averaging around 11 per game.
On the other hand, Notre Dame ranks dead last in turnover margin. The Irish are more likely to turn the ball over four more times than their opponent. Currently the team is averaging around 18 turnovers per contest.
“We have to get back on defense, contain and box out,” Doherty said are the keys to success against the Red Storm. “They are just so quick.”
Saturday’s game will be a battle of the smaller men. There is no player over 6-foot-8 on St. John’s roster. Notre Dame can boast a little more height than that. Freshman Jere Macura is 6-foot-9 and freshman Ivan Kartelo is 6-foot-11. Sophomore Troy Murphy is around 6-foot-9 as well.
“I like their quickness,” Doherty said of St. John’s. “They are small but quick.”
One of St. John’s quicker players is Erick Barkley, who currently ranks as the sixth leading scorer in the Big East, averaging 17.4 points per game.
Notre Dame will have to try and contain St. John’s explosive offense, which averages around 78 points per game.
The Irish are halfway through the home stand and need to get some wins under their belt before getting back on the road. Watch for the Irish to try to establish dominance early. The teams want another win and wants to see their star, Murphy, surpass the 1,000 point plateau.