Mike Rice - 3rd season at Rutgers; 6th overall (117-81) - 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris; 44-50 in third season at Rutgers (excluding three games during 2012-13 suspension). Served as assistant coach at Marquette ((1994-97) and Pittsburgh (2006-07).
The Irish claimed a 69-66 victory over Rutgers on Jan. 19 at Purcell Pavilion, which would prove to be their only win in a four-game stretch. Scott Martin -- hobbling due to knee injury that would shelve him for the rest of the season two games later - took a charge on Eli Carter with 2.3 seconds remaining and the Irish clinging to a one-point lead. Eric Atkins hit both free throws with 1.6 seconds left to secure the victory.
Notre Dame led by seven at half, and then went on a 10-4 run to start the second half for a 48-35 lead. But behind Carter’s 20 points, the Scarlet Knights began chipping away at Notre Dame’s lead. The Irish committed 11 turnovers in the second half.
Jack Cooley scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Pat Connaughton scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Tom Knight scored six points in a 1:41 stretch of the second half. Atkins finished with 14 points, four assists, two steals and five turnovers. Jerian Grant scored nine points and dished out 10 assists.
Rutgers out-rebounded Notre Dame, 31-26, including 13-7 on the offensive glass. Notre Dame’s 16 turnovers tied for the season high in regulation. The Irish converted 15-of-17 free throws.
Wally Judge - The 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior scored 20 points Tuesday night in Rutgers’ victory over DePaul. Judge, who averages 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, made all nine of his field-goal attempts and snagged 10 rebounds against the Blue Demons. He scored just four points and failed to grab a rebound in 17 minutes of action against the Irish on Jan. 19.
Myles Mack - The 5-foot-9, 165-pound sophomore, averages 13.5 points per game and is a catalyst for the Scarlet Knights. He tossed in 19 points against DePaul last night on 8-of-15 shooting while grabbing four rebounds and handing out four assists. He also scored 15 points in the regular-season finale against Seton Hall. Mack scored 12 points against the Irish in January. He shoots an incredible 45.7 percent from three-point range (58-of-127) and has 55 of the team’s 211 steals.
Jerome Seagears - Averaging 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior has scored in double figures each of the last three games for a total of 35 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Seagears was just 1-of-5 from the field at Notre Dame in January.
Dane Miller - The veteran 6-foot-6, 215-pounder who does a little bit of everything for the Scarlet Knights has converted just 3-of-8 shots for a total of 10 points with five rebounds in the last three games. He’s averaging 6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Eli Carter - The Scarlet Knights suffered a huge blow on Feb. 16 at DePaul when their leading scorer broke his leg. He’s now missed the last six games after leading Rutgers in scoring with a 14.9-point average. Two games before suffering the injury, Carter scored 23 points against Georgetown. Carter scored 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting in their loss to the Irish.
Mike Brey on whether his team is “dangerous” entering post-season:
“I think so. We’re very dangerous in March. This is a group that is pretty darn confident about themselves. We’ve had great success in New York. We’re the only team that has been to three semis in a row. So you almost feel like this is the year to break through this thing. Maybe we have to come from a little further back, but I don’t look at that as a disadvantage.”
It’s difficult to evaluate the match-up with Rutgers based upon the previous meeting with the Scarlet Knights nearly two months ago at Purcell Pavilion. First of all, Rutgers had Eli Carter running the show, who was averaging nearly 15 points per game. He tossed in 20 against the Irish, who were just beginning to suspect that Scott Martin would be lost for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
The Irish were playing their worst basketball of the 2012-13 campaign when they defeated the Scarlet Knights by three points on Jan. 19. Tom Knight was just starting to emerge as Martin struggled with his health. Notre Dame was caught between identities at this point.
Yes, the Irish lost by 16 points in their most recent game. But the 73-57 setback to Louisville on the road was a much better performance than the score indicated. Notre Dame cut the deficit to five in the second half, and they did it by pushing the basketball in transition against a Louisville team that thrives on up-tempo.
Notre Dame, as Mike Brey indicated, is indeed a dangerous team right now. Guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant are comfortable pushing the tempo, but they also have plenty of experience dictating a slower pace.
Jack Cooley is due to have a breakout performance, and if Wally Judge doesn’t have another career performance like he did against DePaul Tuesday night, Notre Dame’s four-headed, big-man offering should help the Irish win the battle of the backboards, which they weren’t able to do in January when Martin was hobbled.
Rutgers ranked 14th in the Big East in scoring defense this season, but compensates with depth, athleticism, solid free-throw shooting (.704) and an efficient three-point attack (.360), thanks mainly to Myles Mack, who has been remarkable (.457) from beyond the arc.
Notre Dame must protect the basketball much better than they did in the first meeting this year. But without Carter, Rutgers loses a real difference-maker in the backcourt. The Irish also need Cooley to get back to a 17-point/12-rebound type of game.
The sense here is that Notre Dame is primed to play a very good basketball game against a Rutgers team that lost 13 out of 18 in the Big East, including six in a row once, five in a row another time, and 11 out of 13. And yet, Rutgers’ modest two-game winning streak is its longest since the first week of January.
Notre Dame has won at least one Big East tournament game each of the past four years. The Irish up that streak to five with a double-digit victory over the Scarlet Knights.