Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Notre Dame 69, Rutgers 61
By Kieran Darcy
NEW YORK -- A quick look at sixth-seeded Notre Dame's 69-61 victory over No. 11-seed Rutgers on Wednesday night in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
What it means: No. 24 Notre Dame is moving on to the quarterfinals in its final Big East tournament before heading to the ACC next season. Rutgers, soon to be a member of the Big Ten, makes an early exit as usual.
Notre Dame (24-8) is already a lock for the NCAA tournament. Rutgers (15-16) has now missed the NCAA tournament for 22 seasons in a row.
The turning point: Notre Dame jumped in front early and dominated the first 20 minutes, going ahead 31-15 on a Tom Knight layup with 2:48 remaining in the first half. Rutgers' Myles Mack scored a bucket with one second left to pull the Scarlet Knights within 33-19 at intermission. Rutgers shot just 8-for-27 in the first half (29.6 percent), 1-for-8 from 3-point range.
The second half began differently, with the Scarlet Knights scoring nine consecutive points to get within 33-28. But then back-to-back 3-pointers by Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton expanded the lead back to double digits, 39-28. Rutgers again closed to within 41-36, but Connaughton answered with another 3-ball. A few minutes later, Rutgers closed to within 49-43 and Connaughton drained another triple -- see a pattern here? The Scarlet Knights kept coming, but the Fighting Irish had an answer every time.
Star watch: Connaughton finished with a game-high 21 points for Notre Dame, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 6-for-8 from beyond the arc. Knight had 18 points and nine rebounds. Star forward Jack Cooley scored just two points, shooting 1-for-6 from the floor.
For Rutgers, senior forward Austin Johnson scored a career-high 18 points -- with 15 coming after halftime. Mack also scored 18 points. Forward Wally Judge, who scored a season-high 20 in the Scarlet Knights' win over DePaul on Tuesday, had just two points on Wednesday.
Number crunch: Notre Dame shot 10-for-17 from beyond the arc (58.8 percent), while Rutgers was just 4-for-15 (26.7 percent). Notre Dame shot 15-for-19 from the foul line (78.9 percent), while Rutgers was just 5-for-11 (45.5 percent).
What's next: Notre Dame will play No. 3 seed Marquette on Thursday at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Rutgers heads home to Piscataway, N.J., and looks forward to next season.