ND building momentum, pummels St. John's

ND building momentum, pummels St. John's

St. John's beat the Fighting Irish at home last year. This year's game, from the beginning, gave no indication that a repeat upset was in the forecast.

One thing is clear after Notre Dame's 76-61 dismantling of St. John's: The 2010-2011 Fighting Irish are a team to be reckoned with – especially at home.

Ben Hansbrough led the way with a career-high 26 points, and Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin both scored 12 for the Irish. Eric Atkins and Tyrone Nash each added eight points.

Notre Dame (14-2, 3-1 Big East) lived up to its No. 14 national ranking in the first half, blitzing St. John's to take a 44-25 lead. The Irish scored the final nine points of the half and started out with a 15-4 run to open the contest.

Hansbrough scored 13 points in the first half and Abromaitis had 10.

St. John's (10-4) had started out strong this season with three straight Big East wins. Notre Dame had been no slouch itself, going 2-1 in a tough opening conference stretch against three ranked teams, and recorded 10 straight home victories entering Saturday night's contest.

The visiting Red Storm featured a veteran squad, with nine seniors playing for new coach Steve Lavin this season.

"Notre Dame times two," is how Brey put it before the game, comparing the St. John's roster to the five seniors suiting up for the Irish – minus the injured Carleton Scott, the team's third-leading scorer and an energizer inside.

Early on, St. John's didn't play much like an experienced Big East team, struggling to establish rhythm on offense thanks to Notre Dame's tenacious defense, and allowing the Irish shooters to get open looks from outside.

In the second half, St. John's regained its footing, using a modest 8-2 run to cut the lead to 46-33. But Notre Dame responded with an 11-0 surge, seven points coming from Hansbrough.

Notre Dame got nice contributions off the bench from big man Jack Cooley and swingman Joey Brooks. Each scored five points. Brooks scored all of his points in the first half from the foul line, and and Cooley was a presence defensively.

Justin Brownlee led St. John's with 17 points.

The matchup came in the midst of a South Bend snowstorm, with up to three feet falling in some areas of the region. More than 8,000 fans made it to the game in spite of the weather.

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