Notre Dame accomplished one of its goals its last time out, and has the opportunity to do something even more special when it takes the court Wednesday.
The 19th-ranked Fighting Irish look to become the first team in Big East history to finish undefeated at home in back-to-back seasons when they host a St. John’s squad that has struggled on the road.
Notre Dame’s chances of capturing the regular-season title in the Big East ended last week. The Irish (22-6, 12-4) lost 90-85 on Thursday at then-No. 13 Louisville, which will visit 11th-ranked Georgetown on Saturday in a showdown for the conference crown.
Notre Dame managed to bounce back with a 98-91 win at DePaul on Sunday that clinched a first-round bye in the Big East tournament.
“In a league like this, that’s a great accomplishment,” forward Luke Harangody said. “We put a lot of work into that.”
The Irish, who have won nine of their last 11, wrap up the regular season at 15th-place South Florida on Saturday after facing St. John’s (11-17, 5-11). With a favorable schedule, Notre Dame has a chance to build some momentum heading into the conference tournament and boost its NCAA seeding.
“It feels unbelievable to be in the position we’re in and playing the way we’re playing,” said Rob Kurz, the lone senior celebrating senior night Wednesday. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to keep getting better and carry the momentum we have.”
The Irish can’t really get any better at the Joyce Center, though.
Notre Dame has won all 16 of its home games this season to extend its run in South Bend to 35 since an 80-72 loss to Marquette on Feb. 25, 2006. The Irish haven’t played the Red Storm at home since 2004-05, but have defeated them three straight times there since a 79-69 loss on Dec. 30, 1997.
The Red Storm are 3-8 on the road this season, and their only conference wins away from home have come against two schools below them in the standings - South Florida and last-place Rutgers.
St. John’s, which has lost its last three road games by an average of 19.7 points, has dropped 21 consecutive road games versus ranked opponents since beating then-No. 22 Boston College 64-57 on Jan. 17, 2002.
The Red Storm have also lost nine straight against Top 25 teams overall since defeating the then-No. 22 Irish 71-68 last season.
Harangody had a career-low one point in 12 minutes against St. John’s as a freshman last season, but has been leading Notre Dame in 2007-08.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore finished with 24 points on 11-of-18 shooting and added nine rebounds against the Blue Demons after scoring a career-high 40 in the loss at Louisville. Harangody, who leads the conference in scoring (21.1) and is second in rebounding (10.5), was named the Big East player of the week for the third time this season on Monday.
Kurz finished with 21 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range and grabbed seven rebounds on Sunday. In last season’s loss at St. John’s, Kurz had seven points on just 1-of-8 shooting, but did grab nine boards.
The Red Storm are coming off a thrilling 65-62 win over Seton Hall on Saturday to snap a five-game losing streak.
Anthony Mason Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to cap a 20-7 run by St. John’s over the final 4:51 of the game. The Red Storm are tied with DePaul and Providence for the final spot in the conference tournament.
“We go into every game trying to win,” said Mason, who finished with 24 points and went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. “We are just trying to make it to the Big East tournament.”
St. John’s wraps up the regular season Saturday at home against West Virginia.