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Saturday, January 15, 2011
W2W4: St. John's vs. Notre Dame

By Kieran Darcy

Here are three things to watch in Sunday's game between St. John's and No. 11 Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.

(Tip-off will be at noon, and ESPNNewYork.com will be there. The game will also be available on ESPN3.com, and will air locally on MSG.)

HIGHLY MOTIVATED: Both teams should come out very intense at the beginning of this game. St. John's is coming off two double-digit losses in a row, including to this very Fighting Irish team in South Bend last Saturday. Surely they'll be determined to stop the bleeding, and exact some revenge.

Notre Dame followed up its 76-61 win over St. John's by getting blown out 79-57 at Marquette on Monday, so the Irish will also be looking to right the ship.

St. John's wasn't in the game for very long in South Bend -- the Red Stom were down double-digits 10 minutes in, trailed by 19 at halftime, and Notre Dame cruised in the second half. Steve Lavin's crew needs to assert itself early in this one.

HARD(Y) COUNT: After a string of fine performances, scoring 20-plus points in six of seven games, Dwight Hardy has had two straight poor performances. Against Notre Dame the first time around, he had eight points, and took only five shots. In the 76-59 loss to No. 4 Syracuse on Wednesday, he shot 4-for-15 from the floor, and finished with 12 points. Simply put, St. John's needs a stronger performance by Hardy to beat a team as good as Notre Dame.

BROKEN RECORD: I bring this up in almost every game preview, but St. John's needs to do a better job of guarding 3-point shooters. The Red Storm are ranked No. 285 in the country, allowing opponents to shoot 37.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Fighting Irish were 7-for-13 from downtown in the first half alone last Saturday, and shooting guard Ben Hansbrough finished with a career-high 26 points -- including going 4-for-9 from long range. The Red Storm must get out on the shooters.