March 7, 2002
By HAL BOCK
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK – A year ago, Notre Dame wasted a first-round bye in the Big East tournament. A week ago, Notre Dame wasted a lead and lost to St. John’s at the end of the regular season.
The Irish were determined not to let either occur again and pounded the Red Storm 83-63 in Thursday night’s quarterfinals of the Big East.
The victory moved Notre Dame (21-9) into Friday night’s semifinal against No. 19 Connecticut which defeated Villanova 72-70. No. 20 Miami plays No. 7 Pittsburgh in the other semifinal. Miami defeated Georgetown 84-76 in overtime, and Pitt downed Boston College 76-62.
Notre Dame came out firing, scoring the first seven points and shooting 63 percent in the first half to build its lead to 42-24.
“I’m disappointed when we miss a good shot, because I’ve seen us make it so much,” coach Mike Brey said. “We’re going to score. It’s going to be hard to stop us. It’s defense and rebounding that is key for us to advance in this tournament or the next one.”
Notre Dame came to New York determined to capitalize on the bye it earned in the regular season. A year ago, they wasted it by losing to Pittsburgh.
That made advancing to the quarters important this year.
“Our goal was to go as far as we can,” said Matt Carroll, who had 20 points for the Irish. “We came to stay a while.”
For a moment, it seemed the Irish might let it slip away.
Marcus Hatten sparked a second-half St. John’s recovery, scoring 14 points, 12 on four 3-pointers, as the Red Storm cut the lead to 53-48.
Notre Dame put a stop to the rally right there, recovering with its own flurry of 3s. David Graves and Chris Thomas hit consecutive long-range shots and Carroll sandwiched two more around a basket by Ryan Humphrey, who led Notre Dame with 21 points as the Irish went on an 18-2 run to break the resistance of the Red Storm (20-11).
“We certainly had a chance down five,” St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis said. “We preceded to make a lot of mistakes. They preceded to turn our mistakes into points.”
Only a basket by Eric King interrupted the Notre Dame rally which put the game out of reach for St. John’s.
Thomas, who had 15 points and 11 assists, remembered the last game against St. John’s on Feb. 27 when the Red Storm won 84-81.
“Last time, we got nervous,” the freshman point guard said. “This time, we played with resiliency. We’re playing for a better NCAA seed. We want to hang a banner.”
Hatten led all scorers with 25 points, including 19 in the second half, but needed 24 shots.
Brey said he was looking forward to Friday’s game against UConn.
“They do not believe they’re going to lose,” Brey said. “I don’t think we do right now, either.”