Notre Dame creeps by No. 24 UConn
Fighting Irish open second half with a 13-0 run
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Eric Atkins scored 13 points and Jerian Grant hit three key free throws late as Notre Dame beat No. 24 Connecticut 50-48 on Sunday, the third consecutive win for the Irish and the third consecutive loss for the Huskies.
Grant had 11 points and Scott Martin added 10 for Notre Dame (14-8, 6-3 Big East), who controlled the tempo throughout.
The loss spoiled the return of freshman guard Ryan Boatright for Connecticut (14-6, 4-4), who missed the last three games amid an NCAA investigation into his eligibility.
Notre Dame trailed 24-21 at halftime, but went on a 13-0 run to open the second half.
Jeremy Lamb had 16 points to lead the Huskies and had a chance to tie the game after missing his second free throw with 2.3 seconds left on purpose. He grabbed the rebound of the miss but his off-balance follow bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
Freshman Andre Drummond had 15 points and 11 rebounds for UConn.
Boatright was cleared Saturday by the NCAA to return to action, despite a finding by the governing body that he and his mother received more than $8,000 in impermissible benefits both before and after he enrolled in school.
He made his first appearance 4 minutes into the game, entering to a standing ovation. He scored his first points on a runner in the lane at the halftime buzzer and finished with six points.
Notre Dame blocked three shots during its second-half run that turned a 24-21 deficit into a 34-24 lead. Scott Martin capped it with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Connecticut didn't have a field goal for the first 7 minutes of the second half, but the Huskies trailed by just five points after a basket by Drummond and a 3-pointer by Lamb.
Drummond brought the crowd back into the game with a rebound, dunk and free throw that cut the deficit to 36-34 with 7:30 left in the game. But the Huskies never retook the lead.
A Notre Dame steal and a layup by Atkins pushed the lead to 44-38 with 4 minutes left.
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A driving layup by Boatright made it 45-42 with a minute left. A steal by Roscoe Smith gave the Huskies a chance to tie, but Shabazz Napier missed a 3-pointer and Pat Connaughton calmly hit two free throws on the other end.
A dunk by Drummond on an alley-oop pass from Napier made it 47-44 with 36 seconds left.
UConn's defense forced an inbounds 5-second call before the Irish could get a timeout. But Napier missed everything on another 3-point attempt. He was 0 for 7 from behind the arc.
Grant hit three free throws around a 3-pointer from Lamb to make it 50-47.
Notre Dame outrebounded UConn 33-29 including 11-7 on the offensive end.
The win caps a good week for the Irish. They beat then-No. 1 Syracuse on Jan. 21 before winning at Seton Hall. Notre Dame set team records in that game by allowing the Pirates just 15 field goals, and 42 points.
The Huskies held the Irish to just 36 percent shooting in the first half. But Notre Dame stayed in the game by hitting four of their nine 3-point attempts. They were 7 of 22 from long range for the game.
Drummond and Lamb carried UConn in the first half, scoring 15 of the team's 24 points. Those two were 7 of 12 from the field while the rest of the team was 4 of 10.
Connecticut went 6-3 this season with Boatright out of the lineup, but was 1-2 since he was forced to sit out a second time after serving a six-game suspension to open the season. The Huskies won at Notre Dame, snapping the Irish's 29-game home-court winning streak, before losing consecutive games to Cincinnati and Tennessee, both by three points.
Connecticut has been ranked in the Top 25 for 28 consecutive weeks, the fifth-longest stretch in program history, a run that is likely to end Monday.