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Connecticut snaps Notre Dame's 12-game winning streak

The SportsXchange

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Connecticut came to Joyce Center with a chip on its shoulder, and a flat Notre Dame team just couldn't knock it off Saturday.

The Huskies overtook the Irish in the late going and beat back a late surge on the way to a 65-58 Big East victory before 9,149 fans.

"We came in focused and ready to play," Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. "We just knew it was going to be a big day, a big opportunity, and we wanted to play big."

Shabazz Napier scored 19 points and Tyler Olander added 16 as Connecticut (12-3, 2-1) snapped Notre Dame's 12-game winning streak and an 11-game unbeaten run at home.

Ryan Boatright, making a return to his native Midwest, hit four late free throws to help preserve the lead and finished with 14 points for the Huskies (12-3, 2-1).

"At the end of the game, I put in in my guards' hands," Ollie said. "(Boatright) got fouled and made four big free throws, and we needed that. We've been stressing in practice that our point guard's got to make free throws.

"He stepped up, but we also got rebounds (a 34-28 advantage) and we also got stops."

Eric Atkins paced the Irish with 18 points, Jack Cooley had 14 and Jerian Grant added 11.

Notre Dame (14-2, 2-1) forced a 58-58 tie on a late Atkins bucket but couldn't overtake the visitors. The 58 points were Notre Dame's fewest since a 58-49 season-opening victory on Nov. 11 over Evansville.

"It wasn't going great for us, and we were trying to figure out how to steal it," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "We had great opportunities, but it never felt good in there. The vibe was different than other nights.

"I felt if we did get it, it was going to be a real ugly one."

Notre Dame led through nearly the entire first half, using inside penetration and 16 points in the paint to help build a 31-20 halftime lead.

Connecticut, meanwhile, used 3-pointers to stay with the hosts. Napier had three, including a distance shot with 1:33 remaining to force the game's second tie at 29-29. He had a game-high 13 points in the first half.

Cooley restored the Irish lead at 31-29 with a long jumper 28 seconds later and wrapped up the half with a team-high eight points.

UConn claimed its first lead at 16:04 of the second half when Olander's long jumper gave the Huskies a 36-35 edge.

Cameron Biedscheid replied 24 seconds later as the Irish reclaimed the lead.

Over the next nine minutes, there were two lead changes and five ties, but the advantage slipped the Huskies' way as they claimed the lead at 48-46 on Napier's jumper with 9:03 showing. They kept it until the 1:10 mark, when Atkins tied the game at 58-58 on a bank shot.

But Boatright hit four straight free throws over a 12-second span in the final minute and Deandre Daniels put in a layup after a missed free throw by Olander to preserve the lead.

"Their defense really changed and made it hard for us and then they were really difficult to guard at key times," Brey said. "The two guards (Boatright and Napier) are really good, and Olander was really fabulous. It has to be his best game."

While Cooley led the Irish in scoring and added nine rebounds, he wasn't as much of a factor as he had hoped to be.

"He was battling and fighting the whole night," Brey said. "But we just couldn't get Jack into anything around the bucket."

NOTES: Connecticut's match against No. 17 Notre Dame was the first of two straight against nationally ranked foes. The Huskies are home against No. 3 Louisville on Monday. ... Saturday's game was only the second true road game for Connecticut, which has also had five neutral-site games and eight at home. ... Notre Dame's 14-1 start was its best under coach Mike Brey. The last time the Irish went 14-1 was in 1973-74 when they started 24-1 before losing their second of the season. ... The Huskies hold an 18-10 series lead although the Irish have won four of the last six. ... Irish senior forward Scott Martin earned Big East weekly honors after scoring 22 points -- including 6 of 7 on 3-pointers -- in last Saturday's victory over Seton Hall. ... Boatright starred in Illinois at East Aurora High School, about 130 miles west of South Bend. ... Next up for Notre Dame is a Tuesday match at St. John's.
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