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Irish stumble in road loss to Rutgers

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, March 1, 2004

There’s no place like home – but don’t tell the Irish that. They already know it.

After defeating No. 21 Miami by 35 points at home Tuesday, the Irish traveled to Rutgers and experienced yet another road loss. The Scarlet Knights (17-10, 9-6 in the Big East) shot the lights out (72.7 percent from the field) in the second half, leading them to a 69-55 win.

“We gave them wide open layups and easy shots,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It was really disappointing to watch – very frustrating.”

Notre Dame (18-9, 11-4) started off strong jumping out to an 11-6 lead to start the game, behind six straight points from forward Jacqueline Batteast.

However, the Irish were unable to sustain that effort, allowing Rutgers to climb back into the game, scoring eight of the next 10 points.

But the Irish scored eight straight points to give them a 24-23 lead with 3:39 remaining in the half. Rutgers responded with two late shots to put them up three at the half.

In the second half, Notre Dame came out strong, keeping the score close in the first five minutes. Batteast cut the lead to 34-32 with 14:54 remaining.

But when Rutgers went on a 19-4 run, including eight consecutive makes, the Irish hopes were demolished as the Scarlet Knights led 53-36. Notre Dame didn’t get any closer than 12 the rest of the way.

“We got momentum going in the second half, and we really didn’t keep it,” McGraw said. “We just lost everything – we didn’t fight. We didn’t compete.”

For the Irish, it was just another Georgetown, Seton Hall or West Virginia – all Big East road games that the Irish could have won.

“We’ve had this problem all year long,” McGraw said. “We have struggled to win on the road because we don’t have the right attitude when we go into a road game.”

Batteast led the Irish with 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Megan Duffy had 14 points and four assists on 5-for-9 shooting.

Cappie Pondexter led the Scarlet Knights with 20 points and four assists. Michelle Campbell added 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and Chelsea Newton scored 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting.

For the game, the Irish shot 40.8 percent, but Rutgers shot 58 percent overall, the highest mark by a Notre Dame opponent this year.

Despite the loss, the Irish remain second in the Big East standings. They can clinch the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament with a win Tuesday against Syracuse, or with a Villanova loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday.

But the fact remains that the Irish have struggled on the road this season, going 5-9 away from the Joyce Center.

“At this point in the season I don’t feel very good about us finding [what it takes to win on the road] all of a sudden,” McGraw said. “I think it’s something that each player really has to look and say, ‘What can I do better?’ Right now nobody’s doing their job.”