SOUTH BEND – With No. 24 Notre Dame struggling with St. John’s athleticism, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins took over.
The Irish guards got more aggressive in the second half, penetrating against the Red Storm defense to get their teammates going.
After shooting 28 percent from the field in the first half, the Irish shot 68 percent in the second en route to a 66-40 victory Tuesday. Grant had 21 points and eight assists, Atkins added 15 points and seven assists, and the two had just one turnover apiece.
Our guards ran the whole building tonight, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. They probably took tickets, sold popcorn. When our guards are playing like that, I just sit down and shut up and let them do whatever they want. They were fabulous to watch.
The Irish (23-7, 11-6 Big East) ended a three-game losing streak to the Red Storm (16-13, 8-9), who lost for the fifth time in six games.
Notre Dame’s Cameron Biedscheid and Sir’Dominic Pointer of the Red Storm got in a fight with 1:46 left in the game.
Both players were given technicals and ejected and will sit out their next games.
Brey and St. John’s coach Steve Lavin both said they didn’t get a good look at what happened. Lavin said his assistants told him the two started talking while JaKarr Sampson of St. John’s was shooting free throws seconds earlier. Lavin said Pointer told him he just lost his cool.
Brey said Biedscheid told him he was defending himself. He felt it started with the other guy and he defended himself. But under the rule, if you do throw a punch you’re ejected, Brey said.
Amir Garrett of the Red Storm was ejected for leaving the bench. The Big East said it would review what happened.
Jack Cooley, who only played 15 minutes and was held scoreless Saturday against Marquette because of an illness, went 0 for 2 in the first half against St. John’s before scoring 12 points in the second half. He had 13 rebounds in his final home game.