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ND Women’s Basketball: Press overwhelms Rutgers

Andrew Owens | Monday, February 14, 2011

It was not easy, but the Irish accomplished what they set out to do Saturday afternoon — to beat conference rival Rutgers to head into their showdown against Connecticut, Notre Dame’s biggest game of the season, on a nine-game winning streak.

In front of 9,149 fans at Purcell Pavilion, the fourth sellout of the season, No. 8 Notre Dame (22-4, 11-1 Big East) went on an 11-0 run late in the game to put the Scarlet Knights (14-10, 7-4) away for good in a 71-49 victory.

“I thought that stretch in the second half was about as well as we’ve played all year,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said.

“We got the press going and we shot the ball extremely well, which is rare against Rutgers because they are a great defensive team.”

Sophomore guard Skylar Diggins and senior forward Devereaux Peters led the second-half surge. The duo scored a combined 41 points, 29 of which came in the second half.

The offensive explosion was needed after a slow-paced first half in which the Irish scored a mere 29 points.

McGraw felt that the second half was played at Notre Dame’s speed, and not at its opponent’s.

“I thought we were playing at their pace in the first half,” McGraw said. “Then Skylar got it into high gear and started pushing the ball, and that is when we’re at our best. She was finding people on one end and driving the ball, attacking the basket.”

Senior guard Brittany Mallory contributed with her first career double-double, netting 10 points and picking up 10 assists in the win. She is the fifth Notre Dame player this season to record a double-double in a game.

“She’s been our best defender all year, [was] on the opponent’s best player and she really did it on offense tonight,” McGraw said.

The win was Notre Dame’s first against Rutgers at home in over six years. The Irish have now defeated the Scarlet Knights two consecutive times, the first time they have accomplished that feat since beating them in 1999 and 2000.

“This win was huge,” McGraw said. “I think we’re really in great shape now and can really focus on the next game.”

The next game is against No. 2 Connecticut Saturday. The Irish will look to avenge a 79-76 loss to the Huskies at home earlier this season.

The matchup will be the start of a tough four-game stretch for the Irish, which includes road games at West Virginia and DePaul, two of the most talented teams in the conference, to conclude the regular season.