STORRS, Conn. (AP)—For about 35 minutes, No. 17 Connecticut and No. 20 Notre Dame were in a shootout.
Then Connecticut turned up the defense, and came away with an 84-78 victory Wednesday night to extend its winning streak to eight games.
A.J. Price scored 26 points and the Huskies (19-5, 8-3 Big East) survived a 32-point, 16-rebound effort from Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Irish (18-5, 8-3).
Price was 10-of-19 from the field and had four 3-pointers and nine assists.
“I think he has been a key to their run, how he is stirring the drink so to speak,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of the junior guard. “He was fabulous. We really had a hard time with him.”
Jeff Adrien added 13 points and nine rebounds for Connecticut, and Craig Austrie had 14 points.
Austrie was given the assignment of guarding Notre Dame’s Kyle McAlarney, who scored 32 points in the teams’ first meeting this season. McAlarney was held to 12 points in this one, and missed four shots in the final 3 minutes, with Austrie hanging all over him.
“They were hugging on Kyle all night,” Harangody said. “They did a great job on him and that’s going to happen, and someone is going to have to step up in his absence.”
Notre Dame shot just 33 percent in the second half, after hitting almost 52 percent of their shots in the opening 20 minutes.
UConn trailed most of the way and was down 70-66 when Gavin Edwards blocked a shot, leading to a dunk by Doug Wiggins that brought the crowd to its feet. On the next Huskies’ possession, Edwards made two free throws to tie the game at 70 with 4:48 left.
UConn took a 79-74 lead with 1:54 to play when Stanley Robinson hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
The Huskies then made several key defensive stops and enough free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
“If we didn’t tighten up over the last 6 minutes, we would have lost that basketball game,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
Harangody set a career high in scoring, and tied his career high in rebounding. He came in leading the Big East in scoring at over 20 points per game and had 22 in the second half, including the first 10 Irish points after intermission.
“I hit some Js in the first half,” Harangody said. “But for our offense to start clicking like it usually does, I need to get the ball in the post and have guys cut off me, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Notre Dame, however, couldn’t stretch its lead past six points.
The teams came out at a blistering pace, putting up 52 points in the first 10 minutes. Tory Jackson had 11 early points, including two 3-pointers, as the Irish took a 29-23 lead. He finished with 13.
Notre Dame had its biggest lead, eight points, with 8:20 to go in the first half, but consecutive 3s from Wiggins and Price got the Huskies back in it. UConn tied the game at 39 then McAlarney hit a driving layup over 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet just before the halftime buzzer.
“You could tell that both teams were playing at a very high level,” Price said. “The way the first half went, I saw how effective they were (running), I really didn’t want to play that style of game too much longer.”
Notre Dame is 1-8 all-time at UConn, but had played just once before at Gampel Pavilion, an 85-65 loss during the 1995-96 season.
UConn’s win moves the Huskies into a tie for second place in the conference and left No. 8 Georgetown (20-3, 10-2) as the only team in the Big East with fewer than three losses in league play.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to beat us, and I hope no team figures it out,” Price said.