Feb. 28, 2004
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Junior forward and Naismith Award finalist Jacqueline Batteast (South Bend, Ind./Washington HS) blistered the nets for a game-high 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting, but it was not enough as Notre Dame dropped a 69-55 decision to Rutgers on Saturday afternoon at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J. Despite the loss, the Irish remain in second place in the BIG EAST Conference standings can clinch the No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament with a win Tuesday vs. Syracuse or a loss by Villanova on Tuesday at Pittsburgh.
Batteast inched her way up the Notre Dame record books on Saturday, posting the 18th 20-point game of her career (seventh this season) to tie Sheila McMillen (1995-99) for eighth place in school history. Batteast also logged her 67th career double-figure scoring game (21st this year) to move within one of both Margaret Nowlin (1988-92) and Sandy Botham (1984-88) for 10th place in that Irish career category. In addition, Batteast moved up three spots on the Notre Dame career scoring list into 13th place with 1,214 points, passing Krissi Davis (1,194 from 1987-91), Heidi Bunek (1,202 from 1985-89) and Letitia Bowen (1,205 from 1991-95) on Saturday.
Sophomore guard Megan Duffy (Dayton, Ohio/Chaminade-Julienne HS) continued to state her case as the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player, chalking up 14 points on five of nine shooting, including two of three from behind the three-point line. Duffy also dished out a game-high four assists and snared four rebounds. Sophomore forward Courtney LaVere (Ventura, Calif./Buena HS) returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 4 and plucked a team-high seven rebounds.
Cappie Pondexter scored 20 points to lead three Scarlet Knights in double figures. Michelle Campbell nearly posted a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Chelsea Newton made all five of her shots and wound up with 11 points. As a team, Rutgers posted a .580 field goal percentage (29 of 50), the highest by a Notre Dame opponent this year.
Notre Dame (18-9, 11-4 BIG EAST) looked sharp early on, bolting to an 11-6 lead as Batteast scored her team's first six points. However, the Scarlet Knights came back with eight of the next 10 points and took their first lead with 10:51 to go in the first half. The Irish tied the score twice in the ensuing three minutes, but Rutgers (17-10, 9-6) then fashioned a 7-0 run to take its largest lead of the period at 23-16 at the 5:41 mark. That margin quickly vanished in the face of eight straight Notre Dame points, the last coming on a Batteast jumper that resulted in a 24-23 edge with 3:39 remaining. Campbell and Newton responded with late jumpers and the hosts took a three-point lead to the locker room.
The score remained tight in the first five minutes of the second half, with Notre Dame closing the gap to 34-32 on another jumper by Batteast with 14:54 to play. That's when Rutgers rocked the Irish with a game-turning 19-4 run that saw the Scarlet Knights knock down eight consecutive shots from the floor, while the visitors went one for seven in that span. When the dust settled, Rutgers led 53-36 with nine minutes to play and Notre Dame couldn't get closer than 12 points the rest of the way. The Scarlet Knights wound up shooting 72.7 percent (16 of 22) from the field in the final 20 minutes to seize control of the contest.
Notre Dame will look to bounce back Tuesday when it closes out the regular season with a 7 p.m. (ET) game against Syracuse at the Joyce Center. Prior to the contest, the Irish will honor their four seniors - Monique Hernandez, Jeneka Joyce, Le'Tania Severe and Anne Weese - who will be playing in front of the Notre Dame faithful for the final time in the regular season.