SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As the Big East regular season winds down, Notre Dame is positioning itself for a postseason run.
The 24th-ranked Irish overcame a slow start and injected some life into their offense to pull away for a 66-40 victory over St. John's on Tuesday night.
Jerian Grant scored 21 points to lead the Irish (23-7, 11-6). Eric Atkins added 18 and senior Jack Cooley, playing his last game at Purcell Pavilion, celebrated with a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds.
JaKarr Sampson scored 12 points for St. John's and Phil Greene had 10.
The end of the game was marred by a fight between Notre Dame freshman Cameron Biedscheid and Sir'Dominic Pointer of St. John's. Coming out of a timeout with 1:46 left and the Irish up by 26, the two were jostling before the ball was inbounded. Suddenly, fists started flying.
Both were ejected.
St. John's (16-13, 8-9) was playing its second game without leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison. The 6-foot-3 sophomore, the conference's second-leading scorer at 17.8 points per game, was suspended by coach Steve Lavin for conduct detrimental to the team.
The Red Storm lost their first game without Harrison last Saturday, 62-59 to Providence.
Tuesday's attempt to make up for Harrison's offense was a struggle. St. John's scored 26 points in the first half but managed just eight through the first 14 minutes of the second.
Notre Dame made its run midway through the second half, outscoring St. John's 15-6 to grab a 43-34 advantage with about 10 minutes to play.
A 3-pointer by Grant and five points by Cooley in that stretch paved the way for the breathing room.
Once the Irish found their stride, the outcome was hardly in doubt. Another eight-point burst was enough for Notre Dame to go up by double figures and send the Irish to their 11th conference victory.
Listless was a kind way to describe what happened in the first half.
A late St. John's flurry broke up a see-saw battle and allowed the Red Storm to spurt to a seven-point lead just before intermission. A 3-pointer by Atkins right before the break cut the St. John's lead to 26-22.
Only four Notre Dame players scored in the first half, led by Grant with 10. He also had four assists. The Irish struggled with their shooting, hitting 28 percent (8 of 29) from the field.
St. John's production was spread fairly evenly. Pointer had five points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks.