Notre Dame closed a three-game stretch against top 10 teams without its third-leading scorer.
While its next Big East opponent isn’t ranked, it could be soon.
The 14th-ranked Irish will likely be without forward Carleton Scott on Saturday night when they host St. John’s, which already has one victory over a ranked conference rival this week.
Notre Dame (13-2, 2-1) had the difficult task of opening league play against three teams in the top 10, but the Irish fared well, sandwiching victories over then-No. 9 Georgetown and No. 8 Connecticut at home with a loss at No. 4 Syracuse last Saturday.
Notre Dame improved to 10-0 at home with a 73-70 win over the Huskies on Tuesday. The victory was made all the more impressive with Scott out after he suffered a partial tear in his left hamstring last week, an injury that could keep him out the rest of the month.
It won’t easy replacing Scott, who averages 11.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots.
Ben Hansbrough scored 21 points and Tim Abromaitis added 19 and seven rebounds against Connecticut. The Irish held Kemba Walker, the nation’s leading scorer, to 19 points, well below his 26.1 average.
“Obviously the Big East is going to throw us challenges, but we’re a pretty poised group, and we’re able to handle any adversity that comes at us, whether it’s Carleton going down or guys in foul trouble,” Abromaitis said. “I think we’re able to bounce back and that will be big the rest of the year.”
Without Scott, the Irish switched to a three-guard lineup, moving Eric Atkins into a starting role. Sophomore Jack Cooley saw added minutes, grabbing six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Depth could be a concern as Notre Dame brought only two players off the bench against the Huskies. However, Abromaitis has been hot recently, averaging 19.7 points in the last six games.
The Irish will look to stay perfect at home against St. John’s (10-3, 3-0), which beat Georgetown 61-58 on Monday for its fifth straight victory.
The win snapped a 14-game losing streak against ranked teams. The Red Storm led 32-26 at halftime and forced 14 turnovers as they extended their best start in Big East play since 1999-200 when they opened 4-0.
Dwight Hardy scored 20 points and Justin Brownlee added 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“We definitely needed this game to keep our momentum going,” Justin Burrell said. “I always go back to the Fordham game (an 84-81 loss Dec. 11), ever since then we’ve been a changed team.”
Coach Steve Lavin’s team, which boasts nine seniors, has a very challenging upcoming schedule as it tries to build on its early success. It hosts Syracuse on Wednesday and then gets a visit from Notre Dame next Sunday.
The Red Storm might not have a problem if Hardy can continue his offensive surge. He’s scored at least 20 points in each of the last four games, averaging 21.6 over the last seven.
“Being a senior and starting and playing high volume minutes, he’s gaining confidence and a comfort level with our style and system of play,” Lavin said. “With each passing practice and game opportunity, I think he’s exhibiting the ability to take games over.”
St. John’s won the only meeting against Notre Dame last season, 69-68 after a pair of free throws by D.J. Kennedy with 12 seconds left.