Anatomy of a Streak

A closer look at Notre Dame's program record nine-game Big East winning streak.

On January 16, following a 55-48 loss to Rutgers, Notre Dame left The RAC in Piscataway, N.J at 11-8 overall, and 3-3 in Big East play. On tap: the most difficult five-game stretch of their conference schedule.

39 days later, the Irish haven't lost since.

Below is a look at the program-record nine-game conference winning streak.

Game 1 – #1 Syracuse (20-0/10-0)

The unlikely streak-starter was Notre Dame's eighth victory over a No. 1 team in program history, but its first in 25 seasons (albeit its first opportunity in South Bend during that span).

Game MVP: Jack Cooley

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Cooley 17/Cooley 11/Jerian Grant 6

Favorite: Syracuse by 9.5

The Irish did it with: Offensive efficiency. Notre Dame jumped out to a 19-8 lead, never trailed, and hit half of their shots (20-40 including 8 of 16 from long range) en route to the 67-58 upset. The Irish assisted on a remarkable 17 of their 20 made field goals. Notre Dame put three in double figures and Alex Dragicevich scored nine in 31 minutes off the bench.

Game 2 – at Seton Hall (15-4/4-4)

Notre Dame held the Pirates to just 42 points in a 13-point road victory.

Game MVP: Jack Cooley

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Grant 15/Cooley 11/Grant 4

Favorite: Seton Hall by 6.5

The Irish did it with: Suffocating defense, holding the host Pirates to 26 percent shooting including a 2 for 14 effort from beyond the arc. Notre Dame shot just 35 percent in the win but hit 24 of 32 free throws to secure the victory in East Rutherford. Eric Atkins added 14 points and 5 rebounds to the cause.

Game 3 – at #19 Connecticut (14-5/4-3)

The Irish extracted a measure of revenge from 15 days prior when the Huskies snapped Notre Dame's 29-game home court winning streak, winning in Storrs, 50-48.

Game MVP: Jerian Grant

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Atkins 13/Cooley and Scott Martin 7/Grant 6

Favorite: Connecticut by 9

The Irish did it with: Defense, clutch free throw shooting, and yeoman's work on the boards. Notre Dame out-rebounded the much bigger Huskies 27-24 and held UConn to just 40 percent shooting, including 3-13 from long range. The Irish opened the second half on a 13-0 run to take control before fighting off the host's late rally, winning 50-48.

Game 4 – #15 Marquette (19-4/8-2)

The Golden Eagles entered the contest winners of seven straight before dropping a 17-point defeat, their largest of the season to date.

Game MVP: Pat Connaughton

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Connaughton 23/Connaughton 11/Grant 8

Favorite: Marquette by 2.5

The Irish did it with: A three-point barrage, nailing 11 of 23 while assisting on 18 of 23 total baskets. Notre Dame held their visitors without a field goal from the 9:22 mark of the second half until just 4:11 remained, extending their lead from six to 20 points during that span.

Game 5 – at West Virginia (16-8/6-5)

Notre Dame led 26-16 at the half but fell behind 45-42 with just 2:52 remaining. A trio of treys then paved the way to a stunning 55-51 win in Morgantown.

Game MVP: Jack Cooley

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Cooley 21 points/Cooley 12/Grant and Dragicevich 3

Favorite: West Virginia by 7

The Irish did it with: An 11-0 run that included back-to-back-to-back three-point buckets by Atkins, Grant, and Martin, turning a three-point deficit at the 2:38 mark into a six-point lead with 0:59 remaining.

Game 6 – DePaul (11-12/2-9)

The Irish suffered their only defensive letdown during the streak but rallied to beat the rival Blue Demons, 84-78, in South Bend.

Game MVPs: Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Grant and Cooley 22/Cooley 14/Atkins 6

Favorite: Notre Dame by 12

The Irish did it with: A highly efficient offense, assisting on 18 of 31 field goals and shooting nearly 60 percent for the game from the field. Notre Dame scored a decisive 38 points in the paint during a contest that saw 13 lead changes.

Game 7 – Rutgers (12-13/4-8)

Notre Dame avenged its last loss with a 71-53 bundling of Rutgers in South Bend. The game gave the Irish a split in the season series vs. two of three common foes: Rutgers and Connecticut. They'd later sweep their third common opponent, West Virginia, to finish 4-2 vs. repeat foes in 2012.

Game MVP: Jack Cooley

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Cooley 22/Cooley 18/Atkins 8

Favorite: Notre Dame by 7.5

The Irish did it with: A parade to the free throw line. Notre Dame took advantage of the overly aggressive Scarlet Knights defense and held a 24 to 6 free throw advantage en route to the 18-point victory.

Game 8 – at Villanova (11-14/4-9)

Down 20 late in the first half, Notre Dame rallied to take a four-point lead with under a minute remaining, then won in overtime, 74-70. The game purportedly ties the biggest comeback win to date in program history (the Irish also came from 20 down to beat Marquette in Milwaukee in 1992).

Game MVP: Pat Connaughton

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Connaughton 21/Cooley 13/Grant 9

Favorite: Notre Dame by 3

The Irish did it with: Heart. Notre Dame never let up, chipping away at the Wildcats giant lead to surge within 12 at the 13:35 mark; nine points at 10:52; and five points with 3:13 remaining. Tied at 62 in overtime, Notre Dame scored 11 of the game's next 13 points to put it out of reach.

Game 9 – West Virginia (17-10/7-7)

Notre Dame's 71-44 victory Wednesday night in South Bend marks the biggest margin of the streak, and of the Big East conference season for Brey's now 12-3, 18th-ranked Irish.

Game MVP: Jerian Grant

Leading Scorer/Rebounder/Assists: Grant 20/Cooley and Martin 6/Atkins 8

Favorite: Notre Dame by 2.5

The Irish did it with: A second-half surge. The Irish held West Virginia to just six field goals in the game's final 20 minutes, turning a 30-28 halftime edge into a one-sided affair. Notre Dame hit 27 of 44 shots (61.4 percent) including 9 of 16 three-point offerings in the victory.

Thoughts on the streak

A few items to consider regarding Notre Dame's recent run:

  1. Modern, but historical nonetheless: References to "program-record" should likely include that the nine-game streak is the first in Notre Dame's 17-season history of Big East play – not in "program history."

    It is however relevant to note that no Notre Dame team won nine straight – Big East or otherwise – following January 1 on a season's calendar since the 1987 Irish that took 11 straight wins into the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.
    (*January 1 representing the approximate time each season that Major Independents such as Notre Dame stopped playing a host of lesser foes.)

    The '87 team's run was similarly impressive with wins over top 15 Duke (in South Bend), top 5 DePaul (home as well), and most important, a pair of NCAA Tournament victories at the tail end. Victories over rivals Marquette and Dayton were also included in the '87 streak, led by junior All-America guard David Rivers.

  2. Brey's longest within reach: Notre Dame won 12 straight under Brey in 2006-07, but only three of the 12 were vs. competitive foes, and all but the final victory came against non-conference, pre-New Year's competition. The trio of highlights included wins against #4 Alabama, #19 Maryland, and Louisville in the Big East opener.

  3. Top Dogs: Neither Syracuse (8 straight) nor Marquette (4 straight) has lost since Notre Dame hammered the pair by a combined 26 points in South Bend.

  4. Unforeseen: You're not alone if you didn't see this coming–Las Vegas odds makers were surprised by the streak as well. Notre Dame covered the spread in eight of nine (DePaul the exception) including all five as an underdog (Syracuse, at Seton Hall, at Connecticut, Marquette, at West Virginia). Top Stories