NEW YORK (AP) — St. John’s got to see how the other half lives beyond the 3-point line.
The Red Storm have spent almost all season in 16th and last place in the Big East in 3-point shooting. On Saturday, they held No. 20 Notre Dame to its worst game of the season from beyond the arc and it meant a 61-58 victory, their first of the season in 11 games against a ranked team.
“The stat sheet shows they weren’t able to make their normal number of 3s and that was the difference,” St. John’s assistant coach Mike Dunlap said. “We were able to play at a pace slower than we’d like. We handled that and disrupted what they wanted to do.”
Moe Harkless had 22 points and nine rebounds and D’Angelo Harrison added 15 points for St. John’s (13-16, 6-10). That wasn’t surprising since Harrison (17.1) came into the game second among freshmen in the nation in scoring and Harkless (15.6) was seventh.
What was unexpected was that Amir Garrett, another of the five freshmen starters, had 11 points, including the drive that gave the Red Storm a 61-58 lead with 8.9 seconds to play and when Notre Dame’s last of 27 3-point misses was off at the buzzer, St. John’s had its third straight win.
“The reason we’ve been able to win three games and close them out is that those other three guys are growing offensively,” Dunlap said. “If they don’t we can’t win these games. As a staff we talked about five guys being able to score, not just Harkless and Harrison. We talked about that in the huddle.”
Scott Martin and Jack Cooley both had 18 points for the Fighting Irish (20-9, 12-4), who had won a program-record nine straight conference games. Alex Dragevich missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer for Notre Dame, which shot a season-worst 4 for 31 from 3-point range (12.9 percent). The Fighting Irish could have moved into a tie for second place in the Big East with No. 10 Marquette.
“I thought their defense really bothered us, it sped us up,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We had some great looks but we didn’t make enough of them. You’re going to have to make some more jump shots over the top of that zone to escape here today.”
Notre Dame had pulled off some impressive second-half comebacks in their winning streak.
“We’ve done that a couple of times and stolen wins, but I almost felt like the law of averages today said ‘You can’t have this one,'” Brey said.
Cooley had 11 rebounds, his fifth double-double in his last six games.
Harkless hit a 3-pointer that gave St. John’s a 53-41 lead with 9:15 to play. Notre Dame went on an 11-2 run to get within 55-52 with 4:51 left. Eric Atkins capped the run with a 3-pointer, Notre Dame’s only one of the second half in 14 attempts.
The Fighting Irish closed within one point twice in the final 1:28, but Harkless scored down low the first time and Garrett connected on the drive the second time.
Harrison said it doesn’t have to be him or Harkless for the big shot.
“I feel everybody on this team can take a last shot,” Harrison said. “I turned to get it and Amir got it. Give him a lot of credit. It’s not just one or two guys who can make plays.”
Cooley blamed himself for that play.
“I saw that Garrett broke through the primary defense and got into the middle of the lane and I was a little out of position,” he said. “I should have contested a little more and he made a good shot at the end of the game.”
Notre Dame came into the game shooting 34.3 percent from 3-point range, while St. John’s entered the game allowing teams to shoot 34.6 percent from beyond the arc. The Red Storm, who were 3 of 11 from 3-point range, came into the game last in the conference from beyond the arc at 28.1 percent.
Brey said the Fighting Irish’s last shot was a good look.
“But we didn’t deserve it,” he said. “They did deserve it.”
This was St. John’s last home game of the season and the Red Storm finished 4-7 at Madison Square Garden
The next time these teams will be in the building will be the Big East tournament which gets under way on March 6.
“I think we can surprise a lot of people if we keep playing the way we are,” Harkless said.