Notre Dame holds off Rutgers
South Bend, IN – Notre Dame had to sweat it out, but the Irish did enough to avoid their longest losing streak in three years.
Jack Cooley tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds in No. 20 Notre Dame's 69-66 win over Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights never led in the second half, but had a chance to take a late advantage.
Eli Carter's layup pulled Rutgers within 67-66 with eight seconds left, but after Mike Poole stole the ball from Notre Dame's Eric Atkins, Carter was called for an offensive foul on a drive to the basket with less than two ticks remaining.
"They saw things different, completely different than I did," Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said of the offensive foul call. "But it's a tough job being a referee in the Big East."
Atkins sunk two free throws with a second left and Myles Mack missed a 3- pointer at the horn as the Irish (15-3, 3-2 Big East) avoided their first three-game slide since Feb. 11-17, 2010.
"I told them it's going to be hard in this league. Things are going to be hard," Irish head coach Mike Brey said. "To have to fight them off. We turned it over a little bit. We missed some free throws. But we've got to make some plays to steal the win. I hope that's something we can build on."
Carter finished with 20 points for Rutgers (12-5, 3-3), which has lost nine in a row at Notre Dame.
Earlier in the second stanza, Jerian Grant's jumper four minutes in gave the Irish a 50-37 edge, but the Scarlet Knights responded with a 11-2 run to get back into the contest.
Carter had five points during the surge and his jumper pulled Rutgers within 52-48 with 11:36 to go.
Later, Notre Dame swelled the cushion back to eight after Cooley's layup made it 66-58 with 2:48 left, but a 9-1 sprint by the Knights led to the frantic finish.
The Irish took a 38-31 edge into the break.
Rutgers has dropped 19 in a row on the road against ranked opponents ... Pat Connaughton had 19 points and 10 boards for the Irish ... Mack finished with 12 points.