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No. 24 Notre Dame tops Rutgers at Big East tourney

Notre Dame's PConnaught(24) shoots 3-pointer during first half an NCAA college basketball game against Rutgers Big East Conference tournament Wednesday

Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton (24) shoots a 3-pointer during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Rutgers at the Big East Conference tournament, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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NEW YORK — Pat Connaughton scored a season-high 21 points and led Notre Dame’s impressive show from 3-point range as the 24th-ranked Fighting Irish beat Rutgers 69-61 on Wednesday night in the second round of the Big East tournament.

Tom Knight had a career-high 18 points for sixth-seeded Notre Dame (24-8), which will face third-seeded and 12th-ranked Marquette in the quarterfinals Thursday night.

The Irish have reached the semifinals in each of the last three years but haven’t been able to get that first tournament title — and this is the Fighting Irish’s last chance since they are leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Senior forward Austin Johnson had a career-high 18 points for the Scarlet Knights (15-16), who were able to cut into Notre Dame’s lead several times in the second half only to see Connaughton find a way to start the Irish offense in a hurry.

Connaughton finished 6 of 8 from 3-point range as Notre Dame, which led the Big East in 3-point percentage (36.9), was 10 of 17 from beyond the arc (58.8 percent).

Myles Mack had 18 points for Rutgers, which was 4 of 15 from 3-point range and 5 of 11 at the free throw line. The Irish were 15 of 19 from the free throw line.

Notre Dame, which came into the tournament having lost two of three, led 33-19 at halftime but the Scarlet Knights opened the second half on a 7-0 run. Jerian Grant and Connaughton both hit 3s to open the lead back to 11 points.

Rutgers got within 41-36 with 13:23 to play only to see Connaughton hit a 3 that started a 6-0 run. He did it again with just under 9 minutes to play when he buried a 3 just after Rutgers had gotten within 49-43.

Rutgers beat DePaul 76-57 in the opening round Tuesday and the Scarlet Knights were looking to win a second game in the tournament for the first time since 1998. Rutgers is leaving for the Big Ten after the 2013-14 season.

Wally Judge led the Scarlet Knights in the win over DePaul by tying a Big East tournament record by going 9 for 9 from the field and finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It was a lot different against Notre Dame for Judge, who was 1 for 6 from the field and had two points and one rebound.

Knight was playing the part of the inside presence usually taken care of by all-Big East forward Jack Cooley.

Knight had 10 points and four rebounds in leading the Irish to the 14-point halftime lead. Knight was 5 of 10 from the field while Cooley, who was second in the conference at 58.2 percent, was just 1 of 6.

Cooley finished with two points but he and Knight both had nine rebounds.

Poor shooting was a problem for the entire Rutgers team in the first half except Kadeem Jack, who was 4 of 5 from the field. The rest of the Scarlet Knights were 4 of 22 from the field including making just one of eight from beyond the arc.



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