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    Irish Have Winning Streak Snapped Against No. 21 Rutgers on Senior Day

    FIGHTING IRISH Melissa Lechlitner defends against Rutgers' Essence Carson during first-half action. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Melissa Lechlitner defends against Rutgers' Essence Carson during first-half action. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Feb. 24, 2007

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    NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) - Rutgers' Matee Ajavon scored a season-high 26 points - 15 in a row for her team in the second half - and the 21st-ranked Lady Knights beat Notre Dame a 76-60 on Saturday.

    Essence Carson added 17 points for the Rutgers (19-7, 12-3 Big East), which won its fifth in a row to remain in second place and clinch a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament.

    The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Irish (19-9, 10-5), who dropped their second home game of the season.

    Rutgers led 29-28 at the half before Ajavon took charge. The guard scored 20 points in the second half - 15 straight for her team at one point - and her two free throws with 6:18 left put the Lady Knights ahead 60-47.

    Ajavon finished 8-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. On Tuesday, she had 23 points against Providence.

    "We couldn't stop her," Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. "We probably should have double-teamed her."

    McGraw said what makes Ajavon so tough is her versatility.

    "She can shoot and drive," McGraw said. "Most players are either 3-point shooters or they like to put the ball on the floor. She can do both, and she's got great, great quickness. She was a tough matchup."

    Rutgers was 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the second half after going 3-of-8 in the first half. The Knights also scored 21 points off 16 turnovers by the Irish.

    Kia Vaughn added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Rutgers and Epiphanny Prince had 10 points.

    Notre Dame, which had four double-figure scorers in its last five games, had just two Saturday. Charel Allen had 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting and Tulyah Gaines had 10 points.

    "I think they're the best defensive team we've seen," McGraw said. "They're active. They're athletic. We couldn't get by anybody."

    -- ND --

    POST GAME NOTES: Notre Dame has its season-long six-game winning streak snapped, losing on Senior Day for the first time since Feb. 26, 2002 (Villanova 48-45); it's also just the third Senior Day defeat for the Irish in the 20-year Muffet McGraw era (1987-present), although they still are 24-6 (.800) all-time in their final regular-season home game ... Rutgers matched its series-long winning streak with its third consecutive victory over Notre Dame, improving to 14-9 all-time vs. the Irish (Notre Dame still leads 5-3 in South Bend) ... the Scarlet Knights became the first team in the series to score 70 points in regulation since Feb. 13, 1999 (a 77-57 RU win in Piscataway) ... the Irish allowed their highest regulation point total since a 78-54 loss at No. 4 Tennessee on Dec. 30 ... Notre Dame is 2-4 this season vs. ranked opponents, although it also has an early-season victory over Bowling Green, who joined the national polls two weeks after playing the Irish and has been ranked ever since (peaking at No. 16) ... despite the loss, Notre Dame still finishes with 14 home wins this season, just one off the school record set on three occasions (1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04) ... in addition, the first Irish home win next season will be Notre Dame's 300th women's basketball victory at the Joyce Center ... Saturday's loss was just the fourth for the Irish at home in the month of February since joining the BIG EAST Conference 12 seasons ago (41-4 record), and first since Feb. 19, 2006 (79-64 vs. Connecticut) ... Notre Dame drew a crowd of 7,613 fans, its second-largest home audience of the season, and pushed its season attendance total to 101,818 patrons, the second time in school history the Irish women's basketball program has topped the 100,000-fan mark in a season (school record is 109,549 in 2001-02) ... junior guard Charel Allen posted her 10th 20-point game of the season and sixth in the past seven games; Allen also now is just nine points away from becoming the 23rd 1,000-point scorer in school history ... junior guard Tulyah Gaines scored in double figures for the fourth time in the past six games and the 12th time this season.

     

     

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