Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers Stifled

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers Stifled

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Austin Johnson bowed his head and put his hands on his hips just before his Big East career came to an end.

Nothing was easy Wednesday night. Not shooting. Not rebounding. Not anything for Johnson and Rutgers as the senior left the floor for the final time. But the Scarlet Knights still made Notre Dame earn it.

The Fighting Irish outlasted Rutgers, 69-61, despite Johnson's career-high 18 points and an energetic comeback attempt in the second round of the Big East men's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.

The defeat marked the end of the season for Rutgers (15-16), which finished its third consecutive losing campaign under coach Mike Rice.

It was because of Notre Dame's stifling defense, and very timely shooting from Pat Connaughton (21 points, 6-of-8 three-pointers).

The Fighting Irish hit 10-of-17 of their three-pointers. Rutgers hit just 4-of-15.

The sixth-seeded and 24th-ranked Fighting Irish (24-8) face third- seeded and 12th-ranked Marquette (23-7, 14-4) tonight in the quarterfinals.

Rutgers never led. And Notre Dame never gave them a chance to.

Johnson led Rutgers, making himself a presence inside in the second half. The Scarlet Knights needed him, given Wally Judge struggled with only two points and one rebound.

Despite a 9-0 run to open the second half, Rutgers couldn't seem to pull even.

It seemed every time it pulled within five or six, Connaughton or another Notre Dame player hit a timely three to pull out of reach.

The Scarlet Knights had hoped to win multiple games in the Big East tournament for just the second time, and the first time since 1998, when they lost in the semifinals.

They are a tale of two programs, both playing in their final Big East showcase.

One is ranked. One sits in the lower half of the league.

The reason? One finishes. One doesn't.

Judge found himself on the bench in early foul trouble, one night after he posted 20 points and 10 rebounds on 9-of-9 shooting in the opening-round victory over DePaul. …

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