March 10, 2009
NEW YORK (AP)--Notre Dame has been one of the top offensive teams in the Big East. The Fighting Irish weren't too effective Tuesday night, but they'll take the win that keeps them alive in the Big East tournament.
Tory Jackson scored all 12 of his points in the second half to lead Notre Dame to a 61-50 victory over Rutgers in the opening round of the Big East tournament.
The Irish came in averaging 77.6 points per game, fifth in the 16-team conference, but with center Luke Harangody having an off night and Rutgers dictating the pace, Notre Dame came away with a win courtesy of its defense.
"We had to defend to win the game. I told our guys keeping them at 50 points was the key to us winning it because I thought they defended us well," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "The only way we were going to win the game was manning up and playing man-to-man."
Kyle McAlarney added 11 points for the 10th-seeded Fighting Irish (18-13), who will play seventh-seeded West Virginia in the second round on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
"We know we have a good shot at making a run at this thing," McAlarney said, referring to winning five games in as many days to earn the NCAA tournament automatic bid. "There's some opportunities left and that's really all we're focusing on right now."
Hamady Ndiaye had 14 points for the 15th-seeded Scarlet Knights (11-21), who lost 18 of their last 20 games.
Notre Dame managed a 28-19 lead after a sluggish first half that saw the Irish shoot 33 percent (9-for-27), while Rutgers hit just 25 percent (8-for-32).
Jackson accounted for the last six points of a 12-0 run that gave Notre Dame a 45-32 lead with 11:32 to play. The Scarlet Knights went 5:01 without scoring, missing seven shots and committing two turnovers during the drought.
Rutgers went on an 8-0 run to get within 45-40 on a drive by Corey Chandler with 8:11 left. But Jackson then hit his only 3-pointer of the game.
The Scarlet Knights managed to get within 55-50 on another drive by Chandler with 1:11 left, but free throws by Tyrone Nash and Ryan Ayers sandwiched a breakaway layup by Chandler for the final margin.
Harangody had seven points on 3-for-17 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Irish, who were outrebounded 46-38.
"I have to commend our defensive effort on a player like Harangody," Rutgers coach Fred Hill said of the 2008 conference player of the year who came in averaging 23.7 points. It was just the second time this season Harangody did not reach double figures. He had five points in an 89-63 loss at UCLA.
Notre Dame, which entered the game leading the Big East in 3-point shooting at 40.1 percent, finished 8-for-18 from behind the arc with McAlarney going 3-for-6.
The win was the fifth straight over Rutgers for the Irish.
"These guys have been tough enough to gut a few out when we're not in an offensive rhythm," Brey said. "It's good we didn't have to because we may have to do it tomorrow night again."
Rutgers finished 21-for-63 from the field (33 percent), while Notre Dame was 20-for-57 (35.1 percent).
"What you saw tonight was a microcosm of our season," Hill said. "We got shots we wanted, layups, 12-, 15-footers and we did a great job on the glass, but you have to knock down open shots if you want to win."