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Irish escape Connecticut for third straight win

Jan 30, 2012 - 12:27 AM Hartford, CT (Sports Network) - It wasn't pretty, but Notre Dame extended its winning streak to three with a 50-48 victory over 24th-ranked Connecticut at the XL Center.

The Fighting Irish (14-8, 6-3 Big East) started their run by knocking off then-No. 1 Syracuse eight days ago and followed it up with a solid win at Seton Hall on Wednesday.

Sunday's contest went right down to the final buzzer and the Irish escaped when Jeremy Lamb's shot off his own missed free throw came up short.

Connecticut trailed for nearly the entire second half, but Lamb drilled a three-pointer to pull the Huskies within 49-47 and Notre Dame's Jerian Grant made only the first of two from the stripe with six seconds remaining to give UConn one last chance.

Grant smartly fouled Lamb as he crossed midcourt with 2.3 seconds left to prevent a potential tying three-point try. Lamb made the first free throw and missed the second, but he was able to grab his own rebound along the left side of the lane. His off-balanced shot, though, came up short as time expired.

"They controlled the clock, controlled the ball and won the game," Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun said about Notre Dame. "It was a possession game, and they took it away from us. And they deserve 100 percent credit. And we did a very poor job."

Lamb scored 16 points to lead UConn (14-6, 4-4), which has lost three straight since a 67-53 win at Notre Dame on January 14. Andre Drummond contributed 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in defeat.

UConn freshman guard Ryan Boatright returned after a three-game absence and scored six points off the bench. He was cleared by the NCAA on Saturday after a further review of an earlier investigation into his eligibility that initially cost him the first six games of the season.

Eric Atkins scored 13 points and Grant finished with 11 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Irish, who snapped a six-game losing streak at UConn's home away from home in Hartford. Notre Dame improved to 3-10 all-time at Connecticut, including 2-8 at the XL Center.

"I couldn't be prouder of this group and what we're becoming, I hope," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "I'm really proud of this group and it's a lot of fun working with them. You can see them getting more confident every week."

The largest lead for either team in a tight first half was four, as Notre Dame held a 14-10 edge after a layup by Jack Cooley with just over nine minutes left. UConn followed with the next six points, including five from Lamb, and the Huskies managed to grab a 24-21 lead heading to the locker room after Boatright's floater in the lane.

Connecticut, however, came out cold to start the second half and Notre Dame scored the first 13 points. The Irish hit a trio of three-pointers during the surge, capped by Scott Martin's shot from beyond the arc for a 34-24 advantage.

The Huskies didn't register a point until a basket by Drummond with 12:51 to play. Lamb followed with a three on UConn's next possession to trim the deficit to five.

Notre Dame, employing its slow-down offense, continued to stay in front, but Boatright's drive to the basket with just over a minute left pulled the Huskies within 45-42. UConn then came up with a steal in the backcourt, but Shabazz Napier missed a three-point try and Drummond was whistled for a foul.

Pat Connaughton drained two from the stripe for a five-point edge before Boatright fed Drummond for a dunk to again make it a three-point game with 36.1 seconds left.

The Irish were then whistled for a five-second violation while trying to inbound the ball, giving UConn possession. Napier, though, missed a long contested three-pointer and Grant connected on both ends of a one-and-one with 16.6 seconds to play for a 49-44 game.

Napier, UConn's second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game, missed each of his seven shots and scored just four points.

Game Notes

Martin finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for Notre Dame, while Cooley and Connaughton each chipped in eight points, as only five Irish players found the scoring column...Notre Dame shot just 36.2 percent and made 7-of-22 from three-point range...UConn connected on only 40.4 percent from the field and hit just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc...Notre Dame's only other win in Hartford was a 75-70 triumph on January 5, 2000.