Trailing 25-24 at the break, the Huskies scored 13 of the second half's first 19 points and 18 of the first 27 in the halves first 10 minutes to distance themselves from a cold-shooting Notre Dame team Saturday afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion.
The Huskies blocked just five Notre Dame shots but altered at least a half-dozen more. The Irish aided the visitor's cause by missing four barely contested lay-ups at the rim in the game's first 17 minutes and another pair while the game was in doubt in the second stanza.
"When teams get inside the trees…" Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun offered of his front line quartet and its 7'2" to 7'6" wing spans. "people miss a lot of shots against us. There's a reason. There's a lot of size in there."
Irish head coach Mike Brey concurred. "It was hard for us to do anything offensively against their defense. The first half, we had some lay-ups, free throws that if you're going to beat them, you have (hit those) and have a little more breathing room.
"In the second half we got looks, but they were hurried because of Connecticut's length."
Notre Dame's 5 of 11 shooting effort from three-point land in the first half devolved into a 6 for 26 finish.
Streak SnappersUConn's win snapped Notre Dame's 29-game winning streak; two of the 29 came previously at Connecticut's expense. It was the second streak-snapping win by Jim Calhoun's program in South Bend, his Huskies ending Notre Dame's team record 45-game streak with an 8-point victory in January 2009.
Irish sophomore point guard Eric Atkins played the best first half of his basketball career, scoring 13 of his team's 25 points on a variety of spinning drives and contested shots from beyond the arc. Atkins was held to seven on 3 of 8 shooting in the second-half but still led the hosts with 20 points.
His backcourt mate Jerian Grant, a double-digit scorer in his previous six outings, managed just six points on nine shots. Grant did lead the team with five assists while not committing a turnover in 35 minutes.
"I wanted (Atkins) to shoot more jump shots and I think we have to keep that in mind when he's shooting well. I think sometimes we can give the ball to Grant and let him be the creator, let him be the spot-up guy and Eric can hit shots for us."
Center Jack Cooley and senior captain Scott Martin – so successful on the board and at the rim in wins vs. Louisville and South Florida previously – were overmatched inside, combining for just 17 points while missing 14 of 21 shots in tandem. Martin continued to struggle from beyond the arc, missing each of his five attempts.
The senior has misfired on 26 of his last 27 from long range. Martin again led the Irish with nine boards, his third straight contest as the team's leading glass-cleaner.
The Irish attempted just eight free throws, hitting five in the 14-point defeat. "I think today especially, they could really defend us with size and they didn't have to foul us," Brey offered. "That's hurting us, because if we're not shooting the ball well (from outside) we have to get to the foul line and we haven't.
"We have to drive it more. Jack (Cooley) is a guy that gets to the line a lot and he had a tough time today with their big bodies crowding him and flying around. He didn't get into a rhythm, we didn't have a low post, and then you're kind of out of whack."
Plagued by extended scoring droughts in each of their six previous losses, Notre Dame suffered their first such extended stretch at home, going scoreless for 5:06 late in the second half.
Notre Dame rallied to cut Connecticut's lead to four, 42-38 at the game's 9:23 mark, but an Andre Drummond alley-oop bucket following a timeout, plus a Drummond baseline jumper, another by backup Niles Giffey, and three free throws by point guard Shabazz Napier gave the visitors breathing room.
The floodgates opened thereafter with the Irish unable to convert near the rim and Connecticut knocking down free throws and transition buckets vs. the futile Notre Dame press.
The 11-7 Irish (3-2 in league play) will travel to Rutgers tomorrow to take on the Scarlet Knights for a 9 PM tip Monday evening. Rutgers is 10-7 overall and 2-2 in league play with a game pending today at West Virginia. Notre Dame returns home to battle the league and the nation's No.1 team Syracuse next Saturday.
"We were trying, we kept fighting, but not today," said Brey of a frustrating second half. "We can't spend too much time on it because we have something coming up Monday night.
Game NotesNumbers, notes, and quotes from the first Irish loss at the Purcell Pavilion since February 2010.
- Notre Dame hadn't suffered defeat on the Joyce Center Floor since St. John's scored a one-point upset over the Irish on Valentine's Day, 2010; that loss occurred in the first game without star forward Luke Harangody in the lineup for the short-handed Irish.
- The Irish led 25-24 at the half despite missing 20 of their 29 shots before the break including 14 of 18 from inside the arc.
Said Brey of the Huskies defensive and rebounding presence: "They beat us by 10 on the backboard (43-33), but it seemed like more than that…It's exhausting playing against them, physically."
- Redshirt-freshman guard Jerian Grant did not attempt a shot from the 11:42 mark of the first half to the 16:31 mark of the second. He then did not shoot from until just over two minutes remaining (2:11), missing a pair of free throws in the interim. Grant had scored in double digits in six straight contests.
- After taking just two shots and going scoreless vs. South Florida Tuesday, sophomore guard Eric Atkins put forth the first 20-point scoring effort of his Big East career.
- Notre Dame trainer Skip Meyer was on the Irish bench for his 1,000th game Saturday. The Irish are have won 609 and lost 391 since Meyer first accompanied then-head coach Digger Phelps in 1979.
- "Its Jersey, I guess. It's Jersey people. They're just on your back," said Brey of the upcoming crowd he'll face at Rutgers. "I hear some of the greatest lines about me, and my mock, and my family when I come out of the locker room. They really have some good stuff. It's like the Sopranos are sitting behind our bench man." (The "mock" referenced Brey's trademark mock turtleneck he regularly dons in favor of the traditional suit and tie look).