Rutgers overcomes eight-minute scoreless drought to beat Notre Dame

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer is two wins away from joining an exclusive club.

Epiphanny Prince scored 18 points, Matee Ajavon added 15 and Rutgers (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) overcame an 8-minute scoreless drought to beat No. 14 Notre Dame 57-51 on Tuesday night and give Stringer her 798th career win.

The Hall of Fame coach is aiming to become just the third women's basketball coach to win 800 games, joining Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt. Rutgers travels to Providence on Saturday before hosting DePaul next Wednesday.

"Honestly I haven't even started thinking about it yet," Stringer said. "I didn't really know until I saw a fan in the stands with a card saying 800."

Tuesday night's game might not have been the most artistic of her career, but the Scarlet Knights still walked away with a victory.

"We could have played a better game," Ajavon said. "In the end we just brought it together."

Notre Dame (20-6, 8-4 Big East), which is known for its potent offense that averages nearly 80 points, played stellar defense.

"We were getting the looks, we weren't capitalizing on it," Ajavon said. "Credit Notre Dame's defense."

The Irish held Rutgers without a field goal for nearly 11 minutes spanning halftime as the Scarlet Knights (21-4, 11-1) were stymied by Notre Dame's zone defense.

Kia Vaughn, who finished with 14 points, finally broke the offensive drought with a putback 4 1/2 minutes into the second half that cut Rutgers' deficit to 28-26. That basket started a 17-5 run over the next 7 minutes for the Scarlet Knights. Prince capped the spurt with a three-point play that gave Rutgers a 41-33 lead with 8:49 left. Notre Dame would get no closer than four points the rest of the game.

"We got really easy layups," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We were happy we were getting those shots, we just couldn't make them."

Charel Allen scored 18 points and Lindsay Schrader added 10 for the Irish.

Rutgers hadn't played at home since beating top-ranked Connecticut 73-71 on Feb. 5. The Scarlet Knights have won 12 straight games at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

The Scarlet Knights rebounded from their controversial loss at No. 3 Tennessee with a 21-point win over South Florida on Saturday. Rutgers, which remained fifth in the AP poll this week, received eight first-place votes -- the most ever for the Scarlet Knights.

It was a sloppy first half with the teams combining for 19 turnovers and missing shot after shot. After a forgettable first 12 minutes, Rutgers used a 9-0 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 22-14 lead with 6:21 left. Those were the last points the Scarlet Knights would score in the period.

Notre Dame scored the last eight points of the half, including a jumper by Allen at the buzzer to tie it at 22.

"I wasn't upset at the half because we were playing great defense," Stringer said. "They are averaging 80 points and we held them to just 22 in the half."

Prince had 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first half and Ajavon added seven points. The rest of the Scarlet Knights were a combined 2-for-16 from the field.

Notre Dame is in the midst of a key conference road swing. The Irish beat then-No. 21 Syracuse 79-67 on Saturday and head to DePaul on Sunday before returning home. Notre Dame is tied with Pittsburgh in fourth place in the conference and is aiming to get one of the first-round byes in the Big East tournament.

Rutgers holds a 15-9 edge all-time against Notre Dame, with the Scarlet Knights winning the last four meetings.