By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York.
Television: ESPN. Home Record: Rutgers 10-7, Notre Dame 17-2. Away Record:
Rutgers 3-8, Notre Dame 4-5. Neutral Record: Rutgers 2-0, Notre Dame 2-1.
Conference Record: Rutgers 11-6, Notre Dame 11-7. Series Record: Notre Dame
GAME NOTES: In the final matchup of second round action the sixth-seed Notre
Dame Fighting Irish will take on the 11th-seed Rutgers Scarlet Knights as part
of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
Rutgers had no problem with its first round matchup against 14th-seed DePaul
as the Scarlet Knights rolled to a 76-57 win. The victory was the second
straight for Rutgers including the regular season finale after they lost 11 of
12 contests dating back to Jan. 19. The win also evened up the Scarlet Knights
overall record at 15-15.
The Irish spent most of the year in the bottom half of the top-25 but never
really ascended to the top of the conference with their longest win streak in
Big East play being three games. The Irish lost two of the last three contests
to end the regular season and ended the year at 23-8 overall and 11-7 in
league play. Notre Dame has never won a Big East title and has never gotten
past the semifinal round where it has made appearances in five different
seasons including the last three. This will be Notre Dame's last Big East
Tournament, as the Irish will make the move to the ACC next season.
When these teams met up in South Bend in mid-January, Rutgers really gave the
Irish a game but fell short in a 69-66 decision. The Irish now lead the all-
time series by a 19-13 margin. The winner this time around gets the right to
face third-seed Marquette in Thursday's quarterfinals.
Wally Judge could not be stopped in Rutgers first-round win over DePaul. The
6-foot-9 forward hung up a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double on a perfect 9-
of-9 shooting effort. It was a hot shooting night for the whole team as
Rutgers connected on 61.1 percent of its shots from the floor, including 6-
of-11 from beyond the arc.
If Rutgers is going to pull off a surprise run in the tournament it will need
more efforts like Judge's since leading scorer Eli Carter (14.9 ppg) was lost
near the end of February with a broken right fibula. Myles Mack (13.5 ppg) is
the only consistent double-figure scorer for the Scarlet Knights and he also
enjoyed a strong first round by netting 19 points against DePaul. Judge's (7.2
ppg, 5.6 rpg) performance against DePaul was his first double-double since he
had posted one in each of the first two games of the season. However, Judge
has not had many opportunities this season as the nine shots he took against
DePaul marked just the eighth time this season he has had more than six
In its regular-season finale Notre Dame went up against Louisville which it
beat in five overtimes earlier in the season. The Irish weren't so lucky the
second time around in a 73-57 setback in which they shot just 39.3 percent
from the field.
Notre Dame's struggles on the offensive end against Louisville were out of
character. Efficiency is the key for the Irish as this season they are second
in the county in assists (17.5 apg), while ranking second in the league
in field-goal percentage (.470). The backcourt duo of Jerian Grant (!3.4 ppg,
5.7 apg) and Eric Atkins (11.7 ppg, 5.9 apg) have made sure to keep the ball
moving for the Irish as each is among the top five players in the league in
assists. On the interior, Jack Cooley (13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg) has been throwing
up double-doubles all season as the league's leading rebounder as well as one
of a handful of players averaging a double-double nationally.
As long as Notre Dame plays the brand of basketball it has been playing all
season with strong ball movement and smart shot selection, the Irish should go
marching on to the next round.