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No 2 Irish women win 19th straight, beat Rutgers

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Skylar Diggins scored 18 points and Natalie Achonwa added 15 to help No. 2 Notre Dame beat 13th-ranked Rutgers 71-41 on Tuesday night for the Irish's 19th straight victory.

It's the third longest winning streak in school history for the Irish. The 2000-01 team that won the school's lone national championship and shared the Big East title had 23 consecutive victories. The Irish won 20 in a row the year before.

Notre Dame (22-1, 9-0 Big East) completed a perfect January for the fifth time under Muffet McGraw and the first since 2001.

Trailing 9-8 early on, Notre Dame went on a 22-6 run over the next 7 minutes to take control. The Irish hit five 3-pointers during the spurt, including three by Diggins.

They led by 17 at the half and blew Rutgers away in the second half.

Monique Oliver scored 17 points to lead the Scarlet Knights (17-5, 6-3).

Rutgers was missing second leading scorer Khadijah Rushdan, who sustained a concussion in Sunday's 18-point loss to Georgetown. The senior guard had been playing really well lately, rescuing the Scarlet Knights from a 16-point deficit in the second half to beat DePaul last Tuesday. She scored the final 11 points of that game including the game-winning lay-in with 1.5 seconds left.

With Rushdan out and the Scarlet Knights not playing well, coach C. Vivian Stringer started four freshmen and Oliver. It's the first time she's had four freshmen in the starting lineup since 2005.

Sparked by the young group, Rutgers hung with Notre Dame for the first 7 minutes. Oliver had the Scarlet Knights first seven points, including her first career 3-pointer. A layup by Briyona Canty a minute later gave the Scarlet Knights a 9-8 lead.

Then the Irish got hot from the outside. Diggins ditched her trademark white headband and started connecting from the outside. She hit back-to-back 3s in the corner during the run. Achonwa had a three-point play also. She finished just short of her career-high of 20 points set against Creighton earlier this season.

Leading 40-23 at the half, Notre Dame extended its advantage to 35 in the second half. Diggins hit one of two free throws with 11:30 left to move into a tie for 10th place on the school's career scoring list.

Devereaux Peters finished with 10 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for her third straight double-double. Kayla McBride had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame, which held a decisive 52-24 advantage on the boards.

It was the biggest win for the Irish in the series, surpassing the 28-point victory in 1997.

This was the Irish's second trip to the Tri-State area in the past week. They beat St. John's on Saturday afternoon, returned to South Bend for class Monday then flew back to New Jersey later that night.

It was the second straight poor offensive output by the Scarlet Knights. They only had 36 against Georgetown.

Life doesn't get any easier for the Scarlet Knights as they visit No. 3 Connecticut on Saturday.



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