Jan. 28, 2009

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Out of the rankings for the first time in more than a year, Rutgers finally looked like the team it expected to be when the season started.

Brittany Ray scored a career-high 26 points, Epiphanny Prince added 24 and the Scarlet Knights beat No. 17 Notre Dame 78-68 Tuesday night for its first victory against a ranked opponent this year.

"I think we may have learned how to win a game," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "So in the tradition of the Scarlet Knights, we knew how to run, we knew how to execute, we waited and saw who was in foul trouble and we began to isolate."

It was just the third road win for Rutgers (12-6, 4-3 Big East) in eight tries this season. The Irish (15-4, 4-3) lost for the third time in four games and are 1-8 against Rutgers in their last nine meetings.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw apologized to fans for her team's performance.

"I just don't think we played with the intensity, the effort, the enthusiasm and the energy that we needed today, and Rutgers did," she said.

For a while this game appeared as though it might be first team to 21 wins. Both teams struggled to get going. Rutgers missed its first seven shots, made five straight, then missed 11 in a row.

The Irish started even worse, missing their first 12 shots as they fell behind 17-4 before finally making their first basket, a layup by Natalie Novosel nearly 10 minutes into the game.

"I was just glad Notre Dame wasn't scoring right then," Stringer said.

The key, Stringer said, was Ray. She followed up her season-high 20 points in a loss Saturday to DePaul with an even better game.

"Brittany has been stepping up in a big way. She's not asking if she can shoot. She knows she's got to get it done," Stringer said.

McGraw blamed the Irish defense.

"It was an incredible lack of awareness of where the shooters are," she said. "We left the best ones open."

Rutgers, which led 31-24 at halftime, finally found its shooting touch in the second half, hitting 16-of-32. They pulled away steadily in the second half, highlighted by a five-point play with 8:31 left. Khadijah Rushdan hit a 3-pointer, and while the shot was in the air Notre Dame's Melissa Lechlitner was called for a foul. Prince hit the two free throws to put Rutgers ahead 57-39.

Novosel led the Irish with 19 points, Ashley Barlow scored 18 and Melissa Lechlitner had 17.

The Irish wore white uniforms with pink trim in honor of North Carolina State basketball coach Kay Yow, who died Saturday after a two-decade fight with cancer.

A crowd of 10,082 was at the game, the eighth largest crowd in Notre Dame history.