SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Rutgers got almost the exact ending it was hoping for against No. 20 Notre Dame.
After trailing by 13 points early in the second half, the Scarlet Knights had a chance to take the lead with 2 seconds left with the ball in the hands of Eli Carter, the Scarlet Knights’ leading scorer, who already had scored 20 points. He drove to the basket, just as coach Mike Rice wanted him to, trying to draw contact.
When he collided with Notre Dame’s Scott Martin, though, the officials didn’t see the play the same way as Rutgers did, calling Carter for the charge and the Fighting Irish held on for the 69-66 victory Saturday night.
“I could have taken the jump shot but I wanted to drive to be aggressive,” Carter said.
Rutgers coach Mike Rice thought Martin should have been called for the foul because he thought Martin was inside the arc.
“They saw things different, completely different than I did,” Rice said. “But it’s a tough job being a referee in the Big East.”
Martin, a sixth-year senior figured Rutgers would try to drive to the basket trailing by a point. So instead of guarding the outside shot, Martin headed for the basket to help Jack Cooley as Carter drove to the basket.
“I was there waiting for him,” Martin said.
Carter said he wasn’t sure whether Martin was inside the arc or not, saying he would have to look at the replay. But he didn’t think he should have been called for the foul.
“I thought he was moving still,” Carter said. “Like I said, it was a tough call. I just have to deal with it.”
Rutgers used a 6-1 run late to close to 67-66 when Carter scored on a layup with 7 seconds left then forced a held ball on Eric Atkins two seconds later. Rice said Carter ran the play when he was called for the charge just as he wanted him to.
“Like in all Big East games, that’s what you do. You create contact. You put pressure on the defense,” he said.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said it was the kind of victory the Irish (15-3, 3-2 Big East) needed after losing two straight and avoided losing two straight at home for the first time in four seasons.
“We defended well and we defended at key times,” he said. “Scott Martin taking that charge. He’d be the guy to make a play like that at the end.”
Cooley had 19 points and 10 rebounds after not playing the final 11 minutes in a loss at St. John’s on Tuesday and struggling at times against UConn. Pat Connaughton made four 3-pointers and added 17 points, Atkins had 14 points, including a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
The Irish, who were just 1-of-9 from 3-point range in a loss to St. John’s on Tuesday, were 6-of-16 against Rutgers.
Myles Mack 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed as the Scarlet Knights (14-4, 3-3) lost for the ninth straight time at Notre Dame.
Carter led Rutgers with 20 points and Mack had 12 and Rutgers got 18 points from its bench.
Rice said he knows he has a better team than he’s had the past two seasons, but they still need to improve.
“I know we have to become more consistent in everything that we do. But I like our fight. I like our poise and purpose. I like our experience. It’s just you’re going to have to grind out these types of games in the Big East.”
Notre Dame presented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with a check for $10,003 at a break in the first half for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. The money was raised by auctioning off game-worn jerseys, tickets to upcoming games and other items.