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Johnnies worry the Irish

Mike Brey was asked about his team’s schedule on Thursday. Notre Dame had just completed a stretch against three Top 25 programs and it was suggested that the Fighting Irish were about to embark on a less arduous portion of their season.

Mike Brey was asked about his team’s schedule on Thursday. Notre Dame had just completed a stretch against three Top 25 programs and it was suggested that the Fighting Irish were about to embark on a less arduous portion of their season.

Brey laughed sarcastically before offering a differing outlook.

“The hottest team in the conference,” Brey said about St. John’s, who visits No. 14 Notre Dame Saturday at the Joyce Center.

St. John’s (10-3) has won five in a row, including its first three conference games. The Red Storm beat West Virginia and Providence on the road before upsetting No. 13 Georgetown 61-58 at the Garden Monday night. St. John’s held Georgetown’s lethal trio of guards to a combined 20 points Monday night. They entered the matchup averaging 46.1 points per game.

The Johnnies strong start in the Big East has not escaped Brey’s attention. Neither has the fact that the Red Storm have won three of the last five games against the Irish. The last time the two programs met, St. John’s topped Notre Dame, 69-68.

“They look like the team that beat us last year. Steve [Lavin] has done a really good job. They are a confident bunch. They feel it is their time,” Brey said about a team boasting 10 seniors. “[Steve] let those guys lead a little bit.”

Senior forward Tim Abromaitis has been leading the Irish with 16.5 points per game. Notre Dame is among the nation’s better shooting teams as has been their modus operandi in recent years. The Irish are tied for 38th in 3-pointers made (8.1), 66th in 3-point shooting percentage (37.5) and 32nd in the NCAA in free-throw shooting percentage (74.3 percent). St. John’s ranks 292nd in the NCAA in three-point shooting defense. Opponents have made 102 of 271 threes in 12 games this season.

“[Notre Dame] will be the most efficient offensive team we play all year. We’re going to have our hands full,” Lavin said. "I think it is a group that has great synergy. It’s drilled. Their basketball habits are solid. They play at different tempos.”