"They came in here, and ground us down with a delay-type offense, which plays to their strength," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "When we played them at Notre Dame two weeks, we were able to pace the game up a little bit and play with some enthusiasm. In the second half, we didn't score for [the first] seven minutes, and that was the game."
Many people gave up on Notre Dame when All-Big East forward Tim Abromaitis was injured early in the season. But Brey has the Fighting Irish focused on what they do best and Notre Dame (14-8, 6-3 Big East) has won three consecutive conference games, including a victory over then-No. 1 Syracuse (67-58). Before knocking off UConn, the Irish held Seton Hall to 42 points and won by 13.
UConn (14-6, 4-4) has been ranked in the Top 25 for 28 straight weeks but that run will likely end Monday. By dictating the tempo, Notre Dame attempts to limit the number of shots taken by opponents. The Huskies were held to 47 field goal attempts, matching a season low set three times previously. UConn's 19 field goals made was a season low.
The Huskies came into the game averaging 70.9 points but were held to their lowest output since Feb. 13, 2010 when they lost 60-48 to Cincinnati.
"A couple of times we kind of forgot they were going to shoot a late three-pointer and didn't get out there," Calhoun said. "They controlled the clock, controlled the ball and won the game."
The Huskies held a 24-21 lead at halftime but got lulled into Notre Dame's slower pace at the start of the second half. UConn missed its first six shots and didn't score until Andre Drummond hit a shot in the lane with 12:52 left. That had an impact on UConn's crowd advantage as the XL Center fans stood that entire time waiting for a basket.
"Anytime you can come out and make a run to start the half you kind of set the tone," said Notre Dame senior Scott Martin (10 points). "And again, it goes back to us setting up our tempo." Notre Dame controlled the boards 33-29 and 11 of those were offensive rebound that allowed the Irish to reset and further frustrate the Huskies.
"I think the tempo, first of all, is a big effect," Brey said. "You know guys don't get as many shots. There are not as many possessions. I think it can really affect talented guys."
Those talented guys include guards Jeremy Lamb, who attempted only nine shots, and Shabazz Napier who finished 0-7 from the floor.
"I don't think we moved the ball around," Lamb said. "Our offense was horrible today. We couldn't rebound. We were horrible. I don't know why we're playing the way we're playing right now."