Notre Dame's Erica Williamson grabs a rebound in front of Rutgers' Kia Vaughn in the first half. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Strong Irish Defense Not Enough Against No. 5 Rutgers

Feb. 19, 2008

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) – Epiphanny Prince scored 18 points, Matee Ajavon added 15 and No. 5 Rutgers overcame an 8-minute scoreless drought to beat No. 14 Notre Dame 57-51 on Tuesday night.

The win was the 798th of Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer’s career. She is aiming to become just the third women’s basketball coach to win 800 games, joining Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt. Rutgers travels to Providence on Saturday before hosting DePaul next Wednesday.

Notre Dame (20-6, 8-4 BIG EAST), which is known for its potent offense that averages nearly 80 points, played stellar defense. The Irish held Rutgers without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes spanning halftime as the Scarlet Knights (21-4, 11-1) were stymied by Notre Dame’s zone defense.

Kia Vaughn, who finished with 14 points, finally broke the offensive drought with a putback 4 1/2 minutes into the second half that cut Rutgers’ deficit to 28-26. That basket started a 17-5 run over the next 7 minutes for the Scarlet Knights. Prince capped the spurt with a three-point play that gave Rutgers a 41-33 lead with 8:49 left. Notre Dame would get no closer than four points the rest of the game.

Charel Allen scored 18 points and Lindsay Schrader added 10 for the Irish.

Rutgers hadn’t played at home since beating top-ranked Connecticut 73-71 on Feb. 5. The Scarlet Knights have won 12 straight games at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

The Scarlet Knights rebounded from their loss at No. 3 Tennessee with a 21-point win over South Florida on Saturday. Rutgers, which remained fifth in the poll this week, received eight first-place votes – the most ever for the Scarlet Knights.

It was a sloppy first half with the teams combining for 19 turnovers and missing shot after shot. After a forgettable first 12 minutes, Rutgers used a 9-0 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 22-14 lead with 6:21 left. Those were the last points the Scarlet Knights’ would score in the half.

Notre Dame scored the last eight points of the half, including a jumper by Allen at the buzzer to tie the game at 22.

Prince had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first half and Ajavon added seven points. The rest of the Scarlet Knights were a combined 2-for-16 from the field.

Notre Dame is in the midst of a key conference road swing. The Irish beat then-No. 21 Syracuse 79-67 on Saturday and head to DePaul on Sunday before returning home. Notre Dame is tied with Pittsburgh in fourth place in the conference and is aiming to get one of the first-round byes in the BIG EAST Tournament.

Rutgers holds a 15-9 edge all-time against Notre Dame, with the Scarlet Knights winning the last four meetings.

— ND —

POST GAME NOTES: Four of Notre Dame’s six losses this season have come at the hands of top-five opponents (also No. 1 Connecticut, No. 3 Maryland and No. 3 Tennessee), with Tuesday’s defeat the closest of those four … it’s also the 11th time in the 24-game series with Rutgers that a game was decided by single digits, with this being the closest game since a 51-45 Scarlet Knights’ win on March 7, 2004, in the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals at Hartford, Conn. … Notre Dame posted a positive assist/turnover ratio for the 15th time this season … the Irish held Rutgers to its second-lowest first-half point total of the season, and lowest in BIG EAST play (19 at Duke on Dec. 6) … Notre Dame’s bench maintained its streak of outscoring the opposition’s reserves in every game this season, a run now at 26 games after shading the RU bench, 12-8 on Tuesday … for just the fourth time all season, Notre Dame had fewer than three double-digit scorers (also at Purdue, vs. No. 3 Tennessee and at No. 16 West Virginia) … senior guard Charel Allen has moved within five points of 10th place on the Notre Dame career scoring list with 1,425 points, closing in on current Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey (1,430 from 1996-01) … Allen also is just four steals away from becoming the first player in school history to log 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career.