for this game

No. 3 Notre Dame holds off Rutgers 75-63

Feb 2, 2010 - 3:59 AM By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

PISCATAWAY, N.J.(AP) -- Notre Dame looked tired in its fourth game in eight days. The Irish were clinging to a two-point lead against hard-charging Rutgers, and their coach still wasn't worried.

Muffet McGraw's team just keeps finding ways to win.

Skylar Diggins scored 14 points and keyed a late run to help the third-ranked Irish beat Rutgers 75-63 on Monday night.

"It's the veterans. At the end of the game I'm so confident in this team," McGraw said. "In timeouts I don't have anything to say. They know what they have to do and go out and do it."

The Irish are 5-0 since their loss to top-ranked UConn on Jan. 16, but haven't played their best basketball. Notre Dame (20-1, 7-1 Big East) trailed by double digits against Louisville and West Virginia, and blew a 15-point lead against Syracuse before rallying for a late victory.

"Champions will find a way to win," said Melissa Lechlitner, who finished with 12 points against the Scarlet Knights. "That's what made us so successful so far into the season, digging down and finding a way to get a win."

Becca Bruszewski added 13 to help Notre Dame beat Rutgers for the first time since 2005.

Khadijah Rushdan scored 16 points and Myia McCurdy matched her career high with 14 - all in the second half - for Rutgers (12-10, 4-4), which has lost three straight games.

Notre Dame was leading 44-36 midway through the second half when Rutgers started to rally behind McCurdy and Chelsey Lee. The two combined for 13 straight points for the Scarlet Knights, and Lee's two free throws with 5:12 left cut the deficit to 52-50.

The Scarlet Knights trailed 55-52 after Rushdan's putback with 4:05 to go, but Diggins' layup kicked off a 9-1 run for Notre Dame. Leading 57-53, the Irish called a timeout and Ashley Barlow hit a 3-pointer to extend the advantage to seven and put the game away.

"That was a huge shot," McGraw said. "I thought her 3 was really big, so important as it stretched the lead a little bit."

Notre Dame trailed 9-5 before going on a 16-4 run over the next 6 minutes. Lechlitner started the spurt with a layup and Diggins added consecutive baskets. The Irish scored 10 straight before Rashidat Junaid's layup ended a 5-minute scoring drought for the Scarlet Knights and made it 15-11. The Irish then scored six of the next eight points, capped by Natalie Novosel's layup.

The Irish extended the advantage to 12 on Barlow's 3-pointer before Rutgers started pressing and trimmed the deficit to 31-23 at the half.

Rutgers is in the midst of a brutal stretch in the schedule. The Scarlet Knights lost to Connecticut, then fell to then-No. 17 Georgetown on Saturday before Monday's game against the Irish.

"The type of schedule we play you don't have easy games," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "Everyone you play they're legitimate."

Rutgers leading scorer Brittany Ray has really struggled against the tough competition. She was 1 for 21, including going 0 for 10 from behind the arc, against UConn and Georgetown. Ray hit just 2 of 10 shots against the Irish, making her first 3-pointer. She missed her next seven shots before hitting a jumper in the final minute.

"I told her to stay confident her shots will fall," McCurdy said. "Keep shooting."

The schedule gets a bit easier for the Scarlet Knights after Monday night with games against the lower half of the Big East.