Lamb was certain he had sent the game into overtime. Standing at the free throw line with 2.3 seconds remaining Sunday and the Huskies trailing Notre Dame by two points, Lamb did the only thing he could do. He missed the second free throw in a one-and-one situation to give the Huskies one more chance.
The rebound came off long and over the heads of everyone lined up to grab it. Lamb raced to the ball, grabbed it in the air and took another shot.
"I don't know how I missed it," said Lamb, his head down as he answered the question after the game. "I don't know how I missed it. It worked out perfectly. I just missed it."
Lamb, who led the Huskies with 16 points despite getting only nine shots from the field, picked himself off the floor and joined his dejected teammates on the way back to the locker. The 50-48 loss to Notre Dame (14-8, 6-3 Big East) was the third consecutive defeat for UConn (14-6, 4-4) and fifth in seven games.
In a game dominated by Notre Dame's deliberate offensive style, the Huskies led 24-21 at halftime but then handed momentum to the Irish by going over seven minutes without a field goal at the start of the second half and falling behind by 10. The Huskies' uphill battle after that was complicated by their 32.0 percent shooting – making only eight baskets after halftime.
"Our offense was horrible today," Lamb said. "We were horrible."
UConn coach Jim Calhoun gave credit to Notre Dame for controlling the pace, but it is clear his own team is piling frustration on top of frustration.
"This is one of the few games I've ever looked down at the [statistic] sheet and not known who to praise," Calhoun said. "Collectively, their team beat our team. If Jeremy's shot had gone in, I wouldn't have been jumping. I would've liked to won the game like any other coach, but the game is lost over 40 minutes, particularly as we began the second half.
"We lost because we didn't play well. We didn't lose because Jeremy didn't give it a good try to miss that second one. . . . I could, quite frankly, give a shit about that."
Notre Dame has now knocked off Syracuse, Seton Hall and UConn in consecutive games. Eric Atkins led the Irish with 13 points. Atkins and Scott Martin combined for four of Notre Dame's seven three-pointers. And guard Jerian Grant hit 6 of 8 free throws to ice the game.
"We got some great looks," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We missed some looks that maybe would have had us up by 15."
But this turned out to be a game of possessions and Notre Dame valued theirs much more than the Huskies. This was a team loss for UConn.
Freshman guard Ryan Boatright returned after missing the previous three games with his second NCAA eligibility review of the season. But Boatright was rusty, managing six points and two assists in 30 minutes off the bench.
Freshman center Andre Drummond (15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) looked better than anyone on that stat sheet Calhoun mentioned. But Drummond was ineffective in the middle part of the game as well, succumbing to the same hypnotic spell as his teammates.
"You have to play defense for the full 35 [minutes] and if you don't you fall asleep," Drummond said. "Somebody's going to back door you or find a wide-open three."
If Calhoun had handed out a Sleepiest Player of the Game Award, it definitely would have gone to Shabazz Napier. The sophomore point guard has struggled but he might have hit the wall with this pathetic performance. Napier was 0-for-7 from the field and missed four three-point attempts, including an air ball with 17.8 seconds left after Notre Dame turned the ball over with a 37-34 lead.
"Right now, we just don't have very good leadership in the backcourt," Calhoun said.
Napier was credited with one turnover and Lamb had four. As Calhoun rolled off a list of mistakes and turnovers that resulted in Notre Dame points, he didn't mention names. But "someone" or "one of our guys" easily could have been replaced with Napier's name.
Asked if Napier is trying to hard to provide that leadership, Calhoun replied, "No."
The list of guilty parties was long, however. DeAndre Daniels, Alex Oriakhi, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander and Roscoe Smith were all unproductive in their new Elite Platinum uniforms that seemed to bury the school colors and emphasize the orange of UConn's socks and shoes.
With UConn trailing 34-26 with 12:52 left – after Drummond dunked for UConn's first basket of the second half – a voice from the crowd shouted, "Get rid of those uniforms."
No, that advice didn't come from the direction of Calhoun on the UConn bench - but the coach might have been thinking it.
"Some one said that when you put the Elite uniforms on, you're elite," Calhoun said. "The way we played was definitely opposite. And [then they tell you] you're going to play before [16,294] people in your home after you've lost a couple of games in a row. I'd be excited. And we weren't very exciting. I never thought we were excited the whole game.
"I don't know why. I . . . I don't know why. There's a short circuit someplace."