Jan. 31, 2012
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Devereaux Peters has stepped her game up the last week, helping Notre Dame run over its opponents.
Peters had 10 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to lead second-ranked Notre Dame to a 71-41 victory over No. 13 Rutgers on Tuesday night.
"Devereaux was simply amazing," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "She's playing like an All-American and that's why we're playing so well."
The fifth-year senior became the first Irish player to have three straight double-doubles since Jacqueline Batteast did it in the 2004 NCAA tournament. Peters can see the end of her run at Notre Dame in the offing.
"I'm realizing my time's almost up," Peters said. "I want to make the most of it. I'm a fifth-year senior, I want to get our team winning and go as far as we can."
The Irish lost only once this season, falling to No. 1 Baylor. They have won 19 straight games - the third longest streak in school history. They ran through Tennessee, St. John's and now Rutgers the last three games.
"Dev stepped up not only defensively, but also on the boards," McGraw said. "She runs the floor well and is scoring on offensive rebounds. That might be the biggest shift in our game."
Skylar Diggins scored 18 points and Natalie Achonwa added 15 as the Irish had a balanced offense. Kayla McBride had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame. The Irish controlled the boards against the Scarlet Knights, outrebounding them 52-24.
"You can't really key on one person; we're a team that has a lot of different weapons," McGraw said. "It could be anyone's game. Natalie coming off the bench provided a spark for us."
Notre Dame (22-1, 9-0 BIG EAST) completed a perfect January for the fifth time under McGraw and the first since 2001.
Trailing 9-8 early on, Notre Dame went on a 22-6 run over the next 7 minutes to take control. The Irish hit five 3-pointers during the spurt, including three by Diggins.
"We had opportunities early, knocked some 3s down and started our run," Diggins said.
They led by 17 at the half and blew Rutgers away in the second half, winning by the largest margin in the series' history.
Notre Dame is just four victories short of the school record set by the 2000-01 team that won the school's lone national championship and shared the BIG EAST title. If the Irish can beat DePaul on Sunday they will match the 20 straight victories done by the 2000 squad.
Monique Oliver scored 17 points to lead the Scarlet Knights (17-5, 6-3).
Rutgers was missing second-leading scorer Khadijah Rushdan, who sustained a concussion in Sunday's 18-point loss to Georgetown. The senior guard had been playing really well lately, rescuing the Scarlet Knights from a 16-point deficit in the second half to beat DePaul last Tuesday. She scored the final 11 points of that game including the game-winning lay-in with 1.5 seconds left.
With Rushdan out and the Scarlet Knights not playing well, coach C. Vivian Stringer started four freshmen and Oliver. It's the first time she's had four freshmen in the starting lineup since 2005.
"I was particular proud of our (freshmen)," Stringer said. "They kept their heads up."
Sparked by the young group, Rutgers hung with Notre Dame for the first 7 1/2 minutes. Oliver had the Scarlet Knights' first seven points, including her first career 3-pointer. A layup by Briyona Canty a minute later gave the Scarlet Knights a 9-8 lead.
Then the Irish got hot from the outside and Oliver picked up her second foul, heading to the bench. Diggins ditched her trademark white headband and started connecting from the outside. She hit back-to-back 3s in the corner during the run.
"There's no formula to that," said Diggins laughing at tossing her headband. "I was sick of it, threw it off to change gears."
Leading 40-23 at the half, Notre Dame extended its advantage to 35 in the second half. Diggins hit one of two free throws with 11:30 left to move into a tie for 10th place on the school's career scoring list.
It was the biggest win for Notre Dame in the series, surpassing the 28-point victory in 1997.
This was the Irish's second trip to the Tri-State area in the past week. They beat St. John's on Saturday afternoon, returned to South Bend for class Monday then flew back to New Jersey later that night.
It was the second straight poor offensive output by the Scarlet Knights. They only had 36 against Georgetown.
Life doesn't get any easier for the Scarlet Knights as they visit No. 3 Connecticut on Saturday.
"The BIG EAST is not a joke," Stringer said. "This is the last third of our season. We played Georgetown, Notre Dame and Connecticut is right behind that. Doesn't get any rougher than that."
POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame improves to 7-1 against ranked opponents this season, including a 4-1 record away from home (3-1 on the floor of a Top 25 opponent) ... four of the seven Fighting Irish wins over ranked opponents have been by 20 points or more, including three by at least 28 points (two of those three on the road -- 66-38 at No. 12/14 Purdue on Dec. 10; 71-41 at No. 13/14 Rutgers Tuesday night) ... the 30-point margin is the largest for Notre Dame ever on the home court of an Associated Press Top 25 opponent, topping the 28-point spread at Purdue earlier this year ... the margin also is the largest for the Fighting Irish against an AP Top 25 opponent since Feb. 25, 2004, when they defeated No. 21/19 Miami (Fla.), 93-58 at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame sets a school record by holding its opponent to 50 points or fewer for the 15th time this year (old mark was 14, set last season) ... the Fighting Irish register their 11th 30-point win of the season, one short of the school record established last year ... Notre Dame earns its third consecutive win in the series with Rutgers, the first time the Fighting Irish have ever posted three wins in a row over the Scarlet Knights in a 28-game series that dates back to Nov. 27, 1982 (RU still leads the overall series, 16-12, although the margin is just 13-12 since the teams joined the BIG EAST in 1995-96) ... Notre Dame picks up its second consecutive win over Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the first time the Fighting Irish have downed the Scarlet Knights on back-to-back visits to Piscataway, N.J., since March 1, 1999 (68-61 in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals) and Feb. 19, 2000 (78-74 in overtime, a game best remembered for Alicia Ratay's two three-pointers in the final 16 seconds of regulation that forced the OT) ... Notre Dame posts its largest margin of victory in the series with Rutgers (largest prior win was 86-58 on March 2, 1997, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Storrs, Conn.) and holds the Scarlet Knights to their lowest point total in the series (previous low output came in a 67-46 Fighting Irish win on Jan. 6, 2001, at Purcell Pavilion) ... Notre Dame's 52 rebounds were the most it has piled up in BIG EAST play this year, topping Saturday's 49-rebound effort at St. John's (Notre Dame had a season-high 58 rebounds on Dec. 28 vs. Longwood at Purcell Pavilion) ... the Fighting Irish have held their opponents to 25 points or fewer in 24 of their last 35 halves of basketball (dating back to the second half on Nov. 26 against No. 7/6 Duke) ... Notre Dame completes the month of January undefeated for the first time since 2000-01, and the fifth time in the 25-year Muffet McGraw era ... the Fighting Irish extend their third-longest win streak in school history (19 games), and continue the second-best start in program history (22-1), as well as the fourth-best BIG EAST debut since joining the conference 17 seasons ago (9-0) ... fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters posted her third consecutive double-double, the first Fighting Irish player to pull off that feat since March 21-27, 2004, when Jacqueline Batteast had three in a row in the NCAA Championship against Missouri State (17/11), Middle Tennessee (27/12) and Penn State (22/12) ... Peters also chalked up her third consecutive 15-rebound game, a feat no Notre Dame player has accomplished since Feb. 16-24, 1979, when Jane Politiski did so during the program's AIAW Division III era at Marion (21 rebounds on Feb. 16), and then in all three games of the AIAW Division III North District Tournament in Rensselaer, Ind. on consecutive days against Valparaiso (15 rebounds on Feb. 22), Saint Mary's (Ind.) College (18 rebounds on Feb. 23) and the host St. Joseph's College (16 rebounds on Feb. 24) ... Peters is the fifth Notre Dame player to record three 15-rebound games in one season, with Katryna Gaither the last to do so (four in 1996-97), along with two seasons from Letitia Bowen (three in 1992-93, four in 1993-94), one from Shari Matvey (five in 1979-80) and two from Politiski (school-record seven in 1977-78, four in 1978-79) ... for the second consecutive game, both Peters and sophomore guard Kayla McBride grabbed double-figure rebounds after the Fighting Irish hadn't had twin double-digit rebounders in a game since Dec. 29, 2010, against Gonzaga at the State Farm Holiday Hoops Classic in Seattle (Diggins - 11; Peters - 10) ... coming into this season, McBride's career high for rebounds was six, yet she has posted three double-figure rebounding totals this year ... McBride also logged her second career double-double, adding to the double dip (10 points, career-high 12 rebounds) she had against No. 2 Connecticut on Jan. 7 at Purcell Pavilion ... sophomore forward Natalie Achonwa came off the bench to notch her seventh double-figure scoring night of the season (fourth time she has collected 15 points or more in a game this year) ... Achonwa's seven rebounds were one off her season high set against UCF on Dec. 20 at Purcell Pavilion ... junior guard Skylar Diggins moved into a tie for 10th place on Notre Dame's all-time scoring list with 1,460 points, pulling even with Sandy Botham (1984-88) ... fifth-year senior guard/tri-captain Brittany Mallory appeared in the 135th game of her career, putting one away from matching the school record held by her former teammate and co-captain last season, Becca Bruszewski (2007-11) ... head coach Muffet McGraw earned career victory No. 578 at Notre Dame (578-212 in 25 seasons), drawing her within one win of tying the late longtime Fighting Irish men's tennis/wrestling coach Tom Fallon (579-268-4 combined from 1957-87) for the second-most victories by a Notre Dame coach (in any sport) in the 125-year history of Fighting Irish athletics -- legendary former Notre Dame men's/women's fencing coach Michael DeCicco set the bar with a 774-80 combined record from 1962-95.