Tory Jackson helped Notre Dame (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) get back on track after a loss to No. 17 Connecticut.
Jackson had 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds and the Irish held off Rutgers 71-68 Sunday, handing the Scarlet Knights their sixth straight loss.
"It was real big," Jackson said after scoring a season-high and coming within one of his career bests for assists and rebounds. "We learned how to close games out, especially knocking down free throws at the end. We did a good job of capitalizing on some of their mistakes."
Kyle McAlarney added 16 points, including two free throws after Rutgers blew an offensive rebound while down a point with about 10 seconds to play, to help the Irish (19-5, 9-3 Big East) win for the 17th time in 20 games.
Rob Kurz added 11 points and career-high 14 rebounds, and Luke Harangody had 10 points and eight rebounds as the Irish rebounded from a late meltdown in an 84-78 loss to Connecticut on Wednesday.
"It wasn't the prettiest game we could have played, but we grinded it out," said Harangody, who was 5-for-16 from the field in his second lowest scoring output of the season. "The important thing is, we're 9-3 now, that's what we're looking for."
The 9-3 conference mark is tied with UConn's and ties Notre Dame's best start in the Big East, with the other coming in 1995-96, its first year in the league.
Georgetown and Louisville are tied atop the Big East at 10-3.
Anthony Farmer had 16 points and JR Inman added 14 points for Rutgers (10-17, 2-12), which saw a game-tying 3-pointer by Corey Chandler miss badly in the waning seconds.
Notre Dame struggled in the closing minutes in losing to UConn, and it made several mistakes down the stretch in nearly giving one away after taking a 67-61 lead with 2:44 to go on a driving layup by Jackson.
"I just don't think there's a guard playing better than Tory right now," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We've hit our stride the last month because of how this young man has played. Today it was his will that said 'I'm going to find a way to get my team a win.' Whatever we needed, he did."
After Chandler hit 1 of 2 free throws, Harangody and McAlarney missed shots and Mike Coburn scored on a fastbreak to cut the lead to 67-64.
Kurz was called for traveling with 1:27 to go and Inman scored on a jam with 1:13 to play to cut the lead to a point.
After nearly coughing up the ball, Jackson found Kurz along the right baseline for a jumper with 43 seconds to play to push the lead to 69-66, but Farmer hit two free throws 13 seconds later to cut the lead to a point.
Rutgers played poorly in the final 30 seconds. With a foul to give, the Scarlet Knights waited 15 seconds before Inman committed the sixth team foul.
Harangody was fouled with 13.1 seconds to play. An 87 percent free throw shooter in the final five minutes and overtime, he missed the front end of the one-and-one.
With three Scarlet Knights all alone to grab the rebound, the ball went off Byron Joynes and Earl Pettis.
Pettis said the mistake was a lack of communication, with neither recognizing a teammate.
McAlarney was fouled with 9.9 seconds to play and made both free throws to give the Irish a 71-68 lead.
"That last play where we had a shot at the rebound, it was an aggressive play by both our players and sometimes those things happen," Farmer said."
Rutgers got the ball up the court quickly, but Chandler's 25-footer was way off the mark and McAlarney got the rebound.
Jackson said the final 10 seconds was a crazy, emotional rollercoaster.
"That's what we talked about in the locker room, the luck of the Irish," he said.
Zach Hillesland scored the final five points in a 10-1 spurt that gave Notre Dame a 34-24 lead with 6:03 left in the first half.
The Scarlet Knights cut the deficit to six points twice, but Jackson hit an off-balance jumper in the closing seconds to give the Irish a 42-34 lead at the half.
Rutgers used an 11-1 spurt early in the second half to take a 50-48 lead on a 3-pointer by Farmer.