Irish Earn a Bye

Notre Dame didn't need to win on Saturday to earn a bye in the Big East Conference Tournament. Right before tip-off, Syracuse lost to Villanova, thus clinching at least a four seed for New York City. They did need to win to continue the hot play down the stretch and avoid the dreaded bad loss on their NCAA Tournament resume. The Irish did just that on Saturday against Rutgers.

Colin Falls scored a game-high 22 points to lead Notre Dame to a 73-66 win over the Scarlet Knights. The victory, the team's fifth in a row, ends the Irish's regular season at 23-6 and 11-5 in the Big East, tying the best league record under head coach Mike Brey. They can do no worse than fourth in the standings, which will earn them a bye in the conference tournament. Notre Dame can get the third seed if Seton Hall pulls off the upset on the road Sunday at No. 19 Louisville, who is 11-4 in the Big East. If the Irish are the fourth seed, they'll play at 2 PM on Thursday against the winner of the 5-12 contest on Wednesday.

As has been the case down the past month, Falls delivered with another solid offensive showing. The senior guard hit five three-pointers en route to his 12th game in a row of scoring 14 points or more. He hit four three throws in the final two minutes to ice the contest away for Notre Dame, who earned their second straight road win of the season, albeit against the two worst teams in the Big East. Falls' two three-pointers to start the contest gave the Irish an early lead they never relinquished. Notre Dame did not trail once in the game.

Rutgers, who finishes the year 10-19 at 3-13 in league play, did not qualify for the conference tournament. Saturday was their Super Bowl and they showed some fight. Adrian Hill had a monster contest, scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. The Scarlet Knights closed the Irish lead to 57-53 with eight minutes remaining. But Notre Dame emphatically responded. Junior forward Rob Kurz dunked home a pass from Tory Jackson and was fouled to push the lead up to 60-53. Rutgers kept fighting but could not get closer than five points the rest of the way. It was 62-57 Irish when Russell Carter slammed home a dunk to give Notre Dame a seven-point lead. The Scarlet Knights closed to 64-59 on a Marquis Webb basket but Jackson scored the next four points to end the late comeback threat. The Irish freshman point guard dished out nine assists and scored six points to go along with six rebounds.

In addition to Falls, Notre Dame had four players score in double figures. Carter, a New Jersey native, scored 17 points in his return. The senior shot 7-of-17 from the field. Kurz chipped in 13 points and six rebounds. Luke Harangody, who last week scored a career-high 22 points in the victory over Marquette, added 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Top Stories