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ND Men’s Basketball: Irish aim to end road woes

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Notre Dame has accomplished a lot this season. But so far, it hasn’t won a true road game.

Although the No. 21/22 Irish are 14-0 at home this season, they are just 2-4 away from the Joyce Center and have yet to win on an opponent’s home floor.

Notre Dame (16-3, 4-2 Big East) will try to change that tonight when it faces St. John’s (11-8, 2-4 Big East) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“We’re looking forward to getting our first true road win,” Irish sophomore forward Zach Hillesland said. “We’re going to come out and attack even if it doesn’t start the way we want it to. We know we’ll get there eventually.”

The last two times the Irish played on the road, against Georgetown Jan. 6 and against Villanova Wednesday, Notre Dame fell behind early. Against the Hoyas at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the Irish found themselves down 29-9 in the first half.

The Wildcats didn’t quite display that kind of dominance, but they did lead by as many as 13 in the first half.

“We haven’t done a good job of matching the home teams’ intensity when we’re on the road,” Irish forward Rob Kurz said.

Guard Colin Falls said Notre Dame can’t afford an early deficit against the Red Storm.

“We’re going to have to play hard right from the first tip,” he said.

Irish coach Mike Brey rejected the idea that Notre Dame’s struggles have to do with playing on the road. He gave credit to Villanova and Georgetown.

“They’re NCAA Tournament level teams and they beat us in two areas – transition defense and the offensive boards,” Brey said.

Brey predicted that getting back on defense and boxing out will continue to be important areas for the Irish against the Red Storm.

St. John’s is just 2-4 in conference so far this season, but it comes into Tuesday’s game having defeated Syracuse 64-60 Sunday.

The Red Storm are led by senior forward Lamont Hamilton (13 points per game) and junior guard Avery Patterson (12.1 points per game).

In addition to the two-game road losing streak, the Irish will also look to end a three-game losing streak at the Garden, all in Big East tournament games. The Irish haven’t met St. John’s in New York since the 2003-04 season.

The last Irish win in Madison Square Garden was a 65-64 win over West Virginia in the first round of the 2004 Big East tournament. Then a freshman, Falls hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to give Notre Dame the victory.

Despite the lack of recent success, playing in New York has a special feel for the Irish, Falls said.

“The Garden, that’s the basketball Mecca of the world,” Falls said. “I wish I could play every game there. It’s just a lot of fun, knowing how many people played there before you and just the people that have been in there.

“There’s definitely a mystique about the building that’s really fun to play in.”

Tonight’s game will tip off at 7:30 p.m., and it will be shown on ESPN regionally.