"We needed to win one like that tonight, I told them it's going to be hard in this league," Brey said after the Irish broke a two-game losing streak with a 69-66 Big East victory at Purcell Pavilion. "We have to make some plays to steal a win. I hope it's something we can build on." Notre Dame (15-3, 3-2) survived a furious comeback by the Scarlett Knights and Eli Carter, who scored six points in the last two minutes. But Carter was denied a go-ahead bucket when he was called for an offensive foul on a drive even as Irish forward Jack Cooley appeared to swat away a shot. "I thought Eli Carter did exactly what I wanted him to do, which was get to the paint," Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. "We wanted our leading scorer to draw contact (but the referees) saw things completely different than I did." Carter also wasn't so sure. "I could have taken a jump shot, but I just wanted to drive and be aggressive," he said. "It was a real tough call." Notre Dame's Eric Atkins secured the victory with two free throws with 1.6 seconds showing. Cooley collected 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season, Pat Connaughton had 17 points while Atkins added 14. "We were playing to not let them get a three," Cooley said. "They had really good front court pressure and they caused a few turnovers. There were stretches where we didn't handle their pressure all that well. That's what let them get back in the game." Carter collected a game-high 20 points as the visiting Scarlet Knights (12-5, 3-3) rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to within a point. Myles Mack added 12 for the losers. "I liked our aggressiveness," Rice said. "We didn't put our heads down and we didn't quit. (But) in a one-possession game it was tough the way we lost it." Notre Dame led 38-31 at halftime and quickly extended the advantage to 13 points thanks in part to inside-outside play. Cooley drove for two quick baskets and Connaughton hit a baseline 3-pointer, one of six Irish long-distance shots on the night. But Rutgers was unimpressed, employing an 11-2 run over a 4:25 span that cut the lead to 52-48 with 11:30 left in regulation. The Scarlet Knights twice got to within three points but the Irish answered each challenge and briefly pushed the lead to eight with 2:04 to play. A Carter bucket in the final minute trimmed Notre Dame's lead to 66-62 by the 48-second mark, and junior reserve Mike Poole dunked in a rebound after Carter's jumper missed with 17.1 seconds left to shrink the Irish lead to 66-64. Connaughton, fouled by Carter with 12.8 seconds showing, hit the second of two free throws for a 67-64 lead but the Scarlet Knights quickly scrambled down court for a Carter layup with 7 seconds to play that made it 67-66. Poole denied Notre Dame a chance to get the ball downcourt with a steal with 5.7 seconds left. But Carter missed potential game-winning drive by Carter, giving Notre Dame the ball with 2.3 seconds showing. This time, the Irish got the ball inbounds, Atkins was fouled with 1.6 seconds left and he hit two free throws for a 69-66 lead. "Their pressure rattled us a little bit and got us on our heels," Brey said. "We couldn't get away from them and I didn't expect to get away from them." NOTES: New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a friend of Brey, was on hand to cheer his home state Scarlet Knights and also accept a check for $10,033 for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged portions of New Jersey and the East Coast last October. Brey helped organize an online auction that concluded last Thursday with proceeds dedicated to storm victims. ... The Irish were the fourth nationally-ranked team Rutgers has faced in its first six Big East games. It lost to No. 7 Syracuse and No. 21 Cincinnati but beat No. 24 Pitt. ... Rice likes to mix up his lineup with no player yet averaging more than 29 minutes a game. Eight Scarlet Knight players have appeared in all 16 games entering Saturday's contest, with scoring leader Carter (15.9 points) tops at 29.4 minutes per game. ... Notre Dame junior Atkins entered Saturday averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game after scoring a season-high 21 points last Tuesday against St. John's ... The Irish are back home Monday against Georgetown while Rutgers resumes play next Wednesday at home against St. John's.
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