In less than three days St. John's has gone from a team being asked about the possibility of not making the Big East tournament again to one finding out what life is like closer to the middle of one of the best conferences in the country.
Just as they did Sunday in a win over Syracuse, the Red Storm used a late 3-pointer to beat No. 22 Notre Dame 71-68 on Tuesday night.
"The win against Syracuse was a big confidence booster," junior guard Eugene Lawrence said. "We realized what we're capable doing, what we should have been doing since the beginning of the season and to stick with it."
This time it was freshman Larry Wright with the big shot for St. John's (12-8, 3-4 Big East), which beat Syracuse 64-60 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden on two late 3-pointers by Avery Patterson.
He hit a 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds to play to break the 68-all tie.
"It felt really good when it left my hands," Wright said of his first-ever game-winning shot. "When it went in I was still shocked. I couldn't believe it."
The victory gave St. John's its fifth over a ranked opponent during head coach Norm Roberts' three-year tenure.
Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3) tied the game at 68 with 40 seconds to go on the second of two free throws by Colin Falls. The Red Storm called a timeout with 36 seconds left, and they ran the shot clock down just under 10 seconds before passing the ball to Wright in the right corner. The 6-foot-2 freshman reserve buried his third 3 of the game in four attempts.
Notre Dame rushed the ball down court and Russell Carter's 3-point attempt from about 28 feet bounced off the rim and the Fighting Irish dropped to 0-3 on the road in the conference.
"Once he let it go I knew it was going to go in," said Notre Dame guard Troy Jackson, who like Wright is a freshman from Saginaw, Mich. "He was like that in high school. He is confident in his shot. Once he knocked it down I was ready to go on to the next play and try to counter back. We couldn't. It happens that way."
Lamont Hamilton scored all of his 23 points in the first half for St. John's, but he was the one who passed the ball to Wright out of the post.
"In the first half they were basically playing man to man and in the second half they did a better job of sliding down on me," Hamilton said. "When the ball came to me on the last play I saw Larry in the corner and when they double-teamed me I got it to him."
Carter finished with a career-high 32 points for Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3), which dropped to 0-3 on the road in the Big East. He scored all the points in the Irish's 11-0 run to open the second half that got them a 52-49 lead.
Eugene Lawrence had 13 points and seven assists for St. John's, which shot 59.3 percent from the field in taking a 49-41 halftime lead. The Red Storm missed their first 10 shots of the second half before Wright, who finished with 11 points, hit a 3-pointer 6:18 in.
"I thought we played well in the first half. We played so hard," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "In the second half we just could not get a shot to go down for us. We had a bunch of layups and bunnies but the kids showed a lot of toughness and stuck it out and Larry made that 3 and for us back on the right track."
Falls had 16 points for Notre Dame but he was 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the second half after going 4-for-6 in the opening 20 minutes.
As Hamilton couldn't score in the second half, Anthony Mason Jr. scored seven of his nine points in a one-minute span, the last of them was a jumper with 10:07 to play that gave the Red Storm a 61-59 lead.
They held the lead until Falls tied it in the final minute.
"I think it would have been a steal on the road especially how we played in the first half," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We gave ourselves a chance and Wright hit a big shot for them."
- Red Storm Sports -