Notre Dame had its 12-game winning streak snapped after playing poorly at both ends of the court its last time out. But the Fighting Irish can still match their best start under coach Mike Brey with a win at St. John's on Tuesday night.
A victory would improve No. 20 Notre Dame to 15-2, matching the 2006-07 team. Road wins, though, have been tough to come by against the Red Storm, who have won four straight and six of the last seven meetings in New York.
The Irish lost their first game since Nov. 16 and missed a chance for their first 3-0 start in the Big East with Saturday's 65-58 home loss to Connecticut. They trailed by six with less than four minutes left until Eric Atkins scored six straight points to tie it at 58 with 1:13 left, but were outscored 7-0 in the final minute.
"I loved how we fought, and it wasn't all going great for us but we were trying to figure out how to steal it but they deserved it," Brey said. "They got a lot of the loose balls. League play, interesting things happen, you got to turn around and figure out what you can do Tuesday night in New York."
Notre Dame is still shooting 50.8 percent - good for a fifth-place tie nationally - despite connecting on only 42.9 percent against Connecticut for its third-lowest figure of the season. Seven free-throw attempts were a season low as the Irish also matched their lowest point total.
Leading scorer Jack Cooley (15.1 points per game) had 14 on 7-of-12 shooting, but Brey was disappointed he didn't receive more opportunities.
"We could never get Jack into anything around the bucket," Brey said. "He was battling the whole night and fighting."
Brey's team allowed a season-worst 50.9 percent shooting and forced just seven turnovers.
"Their guards played well. They played amazing, I felt like they couldn't miss," said junior guard Jerian Grant. "Just defensively we've got to be able to stay in front of those quick guards. There's a lot of them in the Big East. We'll get better at that."
Notre Dame will be matched up against one of the conference's best guards in St John's D'Angelo Harrison, who is second in the Big East at 20.6 ppg. But Harrison scored a season-low seven on 3-of-12 shooting as the Red Storm (9-7, 1-3) dropped their second in a row with a 67-51 home loss to Georgetown on Saturday.
The Red Storm missed 10 of 16 from the free-throw line and also continued their 3-point shooting slump. They were 3 of 16 from long distance and are 7 of 40 (17.5 percent) over their last three contests.
"We're very embarrassed but we have to get back to work," said sophomore Sir'Dominic Pointer, who had 11 points, four assists and three steals. "Notre Dame is right around the corner, and we can't dwell on it. This is a bad loss for us, but we have to snap back quick."
Cooley could have a difficult time inside as St. John's Chris Obekpa leads the nation in blocks with 5.1 per game. The 6-foot-9 freshman recorded six against the Hoyas, already claiming the Red Storm single-season record with 82.
Harrison had 15 points and five rebounds in a 61-58 victory for St. John's over No. 20 Notre Dame on Feb. 25. Cooley finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting with 11 rebounds.
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