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With only seconds remaining and the score tied against No. 22 Notre Dame, sophomore Anthony Mason Jr. (option No. 2) made an entry pass to senior Lamont Hamilton (option No. 1) in the middle of the paint Ð the first step in a play called 1-3-1 Motion. But recognizing a double team, Hamilton made a deft touch pass to the left corner to a wide open Wright and the freshman knocked down a three with 10.4 seconds left. "We ultimately wanted to get it in the post and feed it to Lamont," Roberts said. Fighting Irish senior Russell Carter missed a three on the other end and just like that St. John's had its second upset in three days, a 71-68 win over Notre Dame on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. "It felt real good when it left," said Wright, who had a career-high 11 points. "When it went in, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it." Roberts designed the play with Mason at the top of the key, because he's a better passer, and he also had the option to shoot if the Irish defense lagged back. But the third-year coach really wanted the ball in the hands of Hamilton (23 points, 12 rebounds). Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3 Big East) switched its defense to a zone in the second half to guard against Hamilton and it worked, as the 6-foot-10 forward had no points after halftime. But the big men trapping Hamilton down low weren't ready for the pass and a freshman was able to win it for St. John's (12-8, 3-4). "I kinda knew it was going in when he shot it," said Irish freshman Troy Jackson, who, like Wright, is from Saginaw, Mich. "He's a great shooter - he was a great shooter in high school. I gotta hear about this all day now....I would rather somebody else take the shot." A trio of three-pointers sealed a Red Storm victory Sunday against Syracuse at the Garden and now, a team that started 1-4 in the Big East, has gotten two huge wins in the span of three days. "The win against Syracuse, that was big for confidence," said junior Eugene Lawrence (13 points, 10 turnovers). "We realized what we were doing - what we should have been doing at the beginning of the season." All agreed that something has clicked with St. John's, though the reasons are vague: playing harder, working harder, the usual cliches. But maybe Roberts hit something on the head in his press conference after the win, the second straight game the MSG fans stormed the court. "I think maybe they understand each other a little more, maybe understand me a little better," he said. Whatever it is has worked and the Johnnies have found their way out of the Big East basement - their 12th-place spot after Tuesday night would have them going to their first conference tournament in four years. Carter (23 points) and Colin Falls (16) led Notre Dame, which only shot 36 percent - 26 percent in the second half. No. 9 Pittsburgh, a team St. John's has beaten twice in a row, awaits Saturday at the Petersen Events Center. It looks like the Red Storm has the Panthers' number, but it'll need a little help Ð like a sterling opening half (49 points, 59 percent field-goal percentage) and maybe a game-winning three from a freshman averaging 10.5 minutes per contest. When asked if he felt Roberts had faith in him to take that final shot, Wright said, of course, the coach had seen him do that plenty of times at Saginaw HS. But when Wright left the room, Roberts had another story. "Larry's crazy," he said with a smile. "I saw him play twice in high school." He quickly added: "I saw he could make shots and he could score - I did see that."
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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