Notre Dame’s success on offense has carried over into its Big East schedule. For St. John’s, conference play has only further exposed its scoring woes.
The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish look to take advantage of a struggling Red Storm team when the conference rivals meet at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Notre Dame (10-2, 1-0) ranks among the nation’s leaders in scoring with 83.9 points per game. The Fighting Irish have topped the 80-point mark in all but three contests while scoring at least 90 in four games.
The latest 90-point effort was in Notre Dame’s Big East opener, a 92-82 win over DePaul on Wednesday night.
The Irish will now be facing a Red Storm team that hardly seems in any shape to keep up on the offensive end. St. John’s (9-4, 0-1) has set a season low in scoring in back-to-back games, including a 75-54 loss to Providence on Wednesday in its conference opener.
The Red Storm haven’t scored more than 67 points in any of their last four games, losing their last three. They’re also allowing an average of 75.3 points during their skid, and will have a tough time matching up inside with Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody.
Harangody had 26 points and 16 rebounds versus the Blue Demons. He’s averaging 23.0 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Harangody has scored at least 20 points in five straight games. The last Notre Dame player to reach 20 in six consecutive contests was Troy Murphy in the 1999-00 season.
Zach Hillesland gave Harangody some help against DePaul, scoring a career-high 17 points and adding six rebounds. Hillesland, a senior forward, is averaging career bests with 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
“I think with Zach, I think he has a feel who he can take off the dribble,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Nobody has ever been bashful in my system offensively. Nobody is ever looking at the bench. We want guys that can attack and go for it.”
All five starters finished in double figures in scoring for the Irish for the first time since March 13, 2008, when they lost to Marquette in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
Against the Friars, St. John’s had three starters score in double figures, but the six other players who received playing time combined to score 10 points. The Red Storm were held under 40 percent shooting for the third time in four games.
St. John’s has been held under 60 points in each of its last two games since point guard Malik Boothe went down with a thumb injury. Boothe, averaging 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals, is expected to miss at least one more game.
Sophomore swingman D.J. Kennedy has been St. John’s best all-around player, averaging a team-high 12.5 points and 7.1 rebounds. Kennedy, though, has scored a combined nine points in his last two contests, shooting 20.0 percent (3-for-15).
This will be the first of two meetings between the Irish and Red Storm this season. The teams will face off to conclude the regular season on March 6.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 18-14 and is 51-39 all-time at MSG. St. John’s is 1-2 there this season.
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