In the end, Ben Hansbrough's free throw shooting was enough to give the eighth-ranked Irish a 76-69 win at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.
Rutgers (12-11, 3-8 Big East) lost for the fourth straight time, and the third straight time it was within a possession in the closing minute.
"We talked about inexperienced winners," Rutgers coach Mike Rice told the media after the game. "They had fight. They are improving in our formula, whether it's offensively or defensively… It's tough. Like Pitt did to us – they just got to the free throw line too many times. The intensity, the aggressiveness – everything is there.
"We just have to play with a little more purpose on the defensive side. When we do have wide open shots, we have to shoot a better percentage, especially beating (Big East teams)."
Rutgers senior Jonathan Mitchell continued his torrid scoring pace by matching a career-high with 24 points. It is the fifth time in eight games he reached the 20-point mark. The only other Scarlet Knight in double figures was Dane Miller, who had 11.
Hansbrough has 25 points, including 11 of 13 from the free throw line as the Irish were 27 of 34 on free throws while Rutgers was 8 of 12.
"There was a time when it was a one possession game, down three, with about 2:15 and they had just gone up ten," Rice told reporters afterward. "It could have gone either way. I put a small lineup in. I loved that we started to run and jump a little bit more. We changed the pace to our liking. They just dropped their head and it seemed whenever they dropped their head, they got a foul."
Rutgers trailed 62-51 with 5:25 to play, but then used a 7-1 run to pull close as Mitchell hit a pair of 3-pointers. Miller than brought the Scarlet Knights within 68-65 with 1:40 to play on a lay-in, Notre Dame then lived at the free throw line.
The Irish (19-4, 8-3) got its last 10 points from the line, including the last six from Hansbourgh.
"You have guys in the Big East that just find ways to make their team win or score points," Rice said. "The last couple of games, (Mitchell) has certainly done that. Hansbrough worked harder an hour and a half before the game than some of our guys do preseason or postseason in workouts. He's a winner. There's a reason why he is very driven. J-Mitch is starting to become that go-to guy."