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Late shot by Wright lifts St. John's over Notre Dame

Jan 24, 2007 - 5:51 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Freshman Larry Wright kept Notre Dame searching for answers on the road.

Wright hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds remaining as St. John's collected its second straight home win with a 71-68 Big East Conference victory over the No. 21 Fighting Irish.

Finishing with a season-high 11 points, Wright helped the Red Storm (12-8, 3-4 Big East) overcome a career effort by Russell Carter, who nearly rallied the Fighting Irish by himself in the second half.

"I'm really not surprised I was in the situation of taking the shot," said Wright, who finished 2-of-3 from the arc. "It felt real good when it left my hands and felt good when it went in. I just knew I took a good shot and I was happy it went in."

A close friend from their high school days in Michigan, Notre Dame freshman guard Tory Jackson had no doubt about Wright's shot going in.

"Once it left his hands, I knew it was going to go in and just wanted to set up a shot to win the game," he said. "He was a good shooter in high school and I wasn't surprise he took the shot and made it."

Lamont Hamilton scored 23 points - all in the first half - and grabbed 12 rebounds for St. John's, which beat Notre Dame for just the third time in the last eight meetings.

"Heck of a Big East game and disappointed we didn't steal it," Irish coach Mike Brey said.

Nursing a 68-65 lead with less than two minutes remaining, the Red Storm committed turnovers on consecutive possessions but remained in the lead when Anthony Mason Jr. blocked Jackson from scoring a second straight layup.

Notre Dame (16-4, 4-3), however, retained possession and Colin Falls was fouled with 40 seconds left as St. John's Eugene Lawrence tried fighting through a screen while defending Carter.

Falls, an 80 percent free-throw shooter, could only split the two free throws to tie the score at 68-68.

With St. John's holding for a late shot, Mason got the ball to the right of the key and passed the ball in the post to Hamilton, who flipped it to a wide-open Wright for his second 3-pointer of the game.

"I had the option of shooting, but I had two people on me and I just dished it out to Larry," Hamilton said.

"The play is a 1-3-1 motion," St. John's coach Norm Roberts said. "We had Mason at the top and wanted to feed the post to Lamont and he did a great job of finding Larry to take the game-winning shot. Give Notre Dame credit, they wouldn't let us give it to Lamont inside and when he did, Lamont did a great job of passing the ball."

The Irish, who fell to 0-3 on the road in the Big East, had a chance to answer but Carter's deep 3-pointer hit the back of the rim.

"We played three goad teams on the road," Brey said. "We gave ourselves a better chance of winning the game and now we keep trying and swinging on the road and see what happens next Tuesday (at Syracuse)."

Carter finished with a career-high 32 points. He scored the first 11 points of the second half to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a 52-49 lead with 15:54 to play.

"I was in a rhythm and guys were finding me and I was hitting my shots," said Carter, who finished 10-of-20 from the field with four 3-pointers.

While Carter owned the second half, it was Hamilton who dominated play in the opening 20 minutes, making 8-of-11 shots to lead St. John's to a 49-41 lead.

The 6-10 senior missed both of his field-goal attempts after the break.

"The first half it was more of a man-to-man defense on me and the second half they did a better job of trapping me," Hamilton said. "I was in a good rhythm in the first half and the second was different."

Lawrence scored 13 points but committed 10 of the 19 turnovers for the Red Storm, who shot 43.9 percent (25-of-57) from the field and held a slim 41-40 edge in rebounding.

Falls scored 16 points and Jackson added six and eight assists for the Irish, who shot 35.5 percent (22-of-62), missing 12-of-14 shots over the closing 9:36.