Mar 14, 2013, 2:19 AM EST
Notre Dame’s final appearance in the BIG EAST tournament got off to a great start on Wednesday night, as the #6 seed Irish held off a Rutgers rally to secure a 69-61 victory at Madison Square Garden.
The Irish were led by Pat Connaughton, who came through with one of the best performances of his young career, and certainly his best night of the 2012-13 season. The sophomore guard tallied a season-high 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 6-for-8 from beyond the arc.
Connaughton’s effort was all the more impressive when you consider Notre Dame’s recent offensive struggles in the Garden. Anyone who watched the St. John’s game in January, last year’s semifinal loss to Louisville, or even the 2012 quarterfinal win against South Florida knows the MSG rims haven’t always been kind to the Irish.
Against the Scarlet Knights, Notre Dame shot 41.5% (nothing spectacular), but made 10 three-pointers, good for the team’s best outside shooting total since making 12 against Seton Hall on Jan. 5.
“We made big threes tonight,” head coach Mike Brey said. “That’s something I’d love to see us ride. I think we’re a team that could shoot the ball better than we shot it from the arc throughout the year. I would love to see this jump start us throughout the year. It’s a great weapon for us.”
While the outside shooting was key, we certainly cannot forget Tom Knight, who continues to put tiny Dixfield, Maine on the map. The senior forward scored a career-high 18 points and finished one rebound shy of his first career double-double.
Defensively, the Irish surrendered just 19 points in the first half, tying the fewest they have ever allowed in a BIG EAST tournament game. Coincidentally, that also came against Rutgers (Mar. 10, 2009).
With the win, Notre Dame improved to 10-17 all-time in the BIG EAST tournament, and 9-12 under Brey.
By week’s end, Brey hopes his Irish can notch three more victories to end the program’s tenure in the conference on the ultimate high note – much like the Notre Dame women’s team did on Tuesday in Hartford.
When asked about the BIG EAST tournament over the years, Brey has often talked about “getting to Saturday night,” and he reiterated that focus following the second round victory.
“We expect to be here a while, no question. We love New York City. I’ll take that over South Bend for a while, so we’re going to stay.”
In March, it’s all about survival, and on Wednesday, Notre Dame moved one step closer to Saturday night, surviving what they hope was the first of four rounds in the Big Apple.
The Irish are now 24-8 this season and will face #3 seed Marquette in Thursday’s fourth quarterfinal, where they look to avenge a recent 72-64 loss at the hands of the Eagles.
The game is scheduled for 9 pm ET, but should tip off closer to 9:30. You can watch it on ESPN or listen to the radio broadcast on UND.com.
About In The Paint
Women’s Basketball on YouTube
Notre Dame Women's Basketball Defeat French All-Stars in Madrid
Length: 1:54 | August 12, 2013
Kayla McBride Talks About The 75-57 Win - Women's Basketball
Length: 1:14 | August 12, 2013
Notre Dame Women's Basketball Defeat French All-Stars in Barcelona
Length: 1:28 | August 12, 2013
Skylar Diggins Look Back - Notre Dame Women's Basketball
Length: 4:20 | May 2, 2013
- RT @CoolestColleges: University of Notre Dame http://t.co/iWxic6k7ki 1 hour ago
- "One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it!" - Knute Rockne 🍀 2 hours ago
- RT @ndwbbsid: Today's @ndwbb rank in AP poll ties @MuffetMcGraw for 19th on D-I coach poll appearance list (261) w/ Van Chancellor (formerl… 18 hours ago
- The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination." - Tommy Lasorda 1 day ago
- Final score- ND 90 UCLA 48 2 days ago
Men’s Basketball on YouTube
Meet The Freshmen, Demetrius Jackson - Notre Dame Men's Basketball
Length: 1:08 | August 1, 2013
Meet The Freshmen, V.J. Beachem - Notre Dame Men's Basketball
Length: 1:13 | July 30, 2013
Meet The Freshmen, Steve Vasturia - Notre Dame Men's Basketball
Length: 1:06 | July 25, 2013
Meet The Freshmen, Austin Torres - Notre Dame Men's Basketball
Length: 1:13 | July 23, 2013
- End of presser … Irish play North Dakota State at 7 p.m. Wednesday. 13 hours ago
- Brey: I think Pat is such a rock for the younger guys … I'm confident when he is on floor and I have a hard time taking him out of games. 13 hours ago
- Brey: I don't know if I've coached a more solid player (Pat)… just doesn't let anything affect him. I hope we can keep his rebounding going. 13 hours ago
- Brey: We had to make some big plays to get out of gym alive. That's what ACC play will be like. So these games are good experiences for us. 13 hours ago
- Brey: NDSU is a physical team and have a veteran squad. 13 hours ago