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Falls drops 22 in final regular season home game

Chris Khorey | Monday, March 5, 2007

As far as Notre Dame’s Big East tournament position was concerned, Saturday’s game was meaningless.

Just a few minutes before tip-off, Villanova defeated Syracuse, giving No. 17/22 Notre Dame fourth place in the Big East and a bye in the conference tournament no matter what happened against Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

But the Irish found their own motivation and dispatched the overmatched Scarlet Knights 73-66 anyway.

The win improved Notre Dame’s record to 23-6 overall and 11-5 in the Big East. The 23 wins are the most in a regular season in coach Mike Brey’s tenure and the 11 conference victories are tied for the most in Irish Big East history.

Senior captain Colin Falls, who led the Irish with 22 points Saturday, said Notre Dame dropped a few games it could have won, notably against St. John’s and South Florida, but overall he was pleased with the team’s season.

“There were a few that slipped away, but we’re pretty happy with our record,” Falls said after the win Saturday.

Falls also said he was happy to get a win at the Brown Center, where Notre Dame had lost its only previous appearance during his career.

“My freshman year they beat us, and they beat us in the Big East tournament my sophomore year to keep us out of the NCAA Tournament,” Falls said. “So finishing up my regular season career with a win against them is a pretty cool thing.”

Falls has scored more than 20 points in three of his last six games and has scored in double figures in each of the last 12. He credited the scoring outburst to extra motivation in his last month of college basketball.

“As a senior, your career is winding down and you want to go out strong,” he said. “The adrenaline gets flowing and you get in a rhythm.”

In addition to Falls, Notre Dame had three other starters in double figures – senior guard Russell Carter with 17, junior forward Rob Kurz with 13 and freshman forward Luke Harangody with 10.

Point guard Tory Jackson was the only starter not to score in double figures, finishing with six points, but the freshman made up for it with nine assists.

“He was distributing the ball well,” Falls said. “He was getting in the lane, finding shooters and finding cutters.”

Notre Dame scored the first six points of the game and never looked back, leading from start to finish. The Irish got up by as much as 13 at 44-31 two minutes into the second half, but Rutgers made a run and cut it to five at 62-57 with less than six minutes remaining.

Seeing the lead slipping away, Notre Dame went on a 6-2 run and coasted to victory.

“They kept making runs at us, but we kept rsponding,” Falls said. “We just kind of ground this one out.” Forward Adrian Hill led the Scarlet Knights with 16 points and 18 rebounds.


u The Irish will play at 2 p.m. Thursday in Madison Square Garden in New York City in the Big East quarterfinals against the winner of Syracuse and Connecticut, who will play on Wednesday.

The first round bye gives Notre Dame an extra day to prepare for the tournament.

“We’re going to soak up the city and the environment and get ready to play at the Garden,” Falls said.