South Bend, IN (Sports Network) – Ben Hansbrough scored a career-high 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and No. 14 Notre Dame was never challenged by St. John’s in a 76-61 win that handed the Red Storm their first loss in Big East play.
The Fighting Irish (14-2, 3-1 Big East) could have melted the two feet of snow outside the Joyce Center by shooting a scorching 51 percent from the field.
St. John’s (10-4, 3-1), on the other hand, failed to build on an upset win over Georgetown earlier in the week, shooting a meager 38 percent in the loss. Justin Brownlee posted team-highs of 17 points and seven boards.
“I thought Notre Dame played an excellent game. They controlled the tempo and executed efficiently on the offensive end, and I think they disrupted what we were trying to do offensively with their defense,” St. John’s first-year head coach Steve Lavin said.
Neither team shot well in the opening five minutes, but Notre Dame scored on three straight possessions — highlighted by two Hansbrough three-pointers — to take a 15-4 lead with a little under 13 minutes left in the half.
Notre Dame ended the half shooting 7-of-12 from long range and scored the final nine points of the stanza to build a 44-25 cushion.
Two D.J. Kennedy free throws cut the deficit to 46-33 less than four minutes into the second half, but the Irish took control from there.
Jack Cooley converted a three-point play at the 12-minute mark for some added breathing room, and an 11-0 stretch a little later, fittingly capped by a Hansbrough three-pointer, put the game away.
“I think this group loves to defend together and they constantly talk about defending together and rebounding together. It’s something that they have really hung their hat on this year,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said.
Notre Dame improved to 11-0 at home…The Red Storm had opened conference play with three consecutive wins for the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign. They won their previous five games coming in…The Fighting Irish own a 20-16 series lead…Dwayne Polee II scored 12 points for St. John’s.