for this game

Adrien, Thabeet power UConn past Notre Dame

Mar 1, 2009 - 12:39 AM STORRS, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Jeff Adrien enjoyed a memorable Senior Day at Gampel Pavilion.

Hasheem Thabeet, likely playing his final collegiate home game, also went out with a bang for Connecticut.

Adrien had 25 points and nine rebounds while Thabeet added 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks as the second-ranked Huskies staved off upset-minded Notre Dame, 72-65, on Saturday afternoon.

Senior guard A.J. Price scored 12 points and made some pivotal late-game plays for Connecticut (27-2, 15-2 Big East), which will conclude its regular season next Saturday at rival Pittsburgh.

"I'm very glad that we have a tough-minded group of kids that have grown up over these past three years," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.

Despite struggling with the feisty Fighting Irish (16-12, 7-9), the Huskies secured at least a top-four seed in the Big East Conference tournament. The top four seeds will receive byes in the first two rounds.

"I think, emotionally, the team really was into the whole senior thing, in the locker room," Calhoun said. "And we've been through this before. Most times, we get our stuff back, our zip back. For whatever reason, we really didn't get our zip back today. We were able to scratch out."

Coming off the worst performance of his senior season, Adrien bounced back in this contest, shooting 11-of-15 from the floor and also adding a pair of blocks. The 6-7 forward scored a season-low two points in Wednesday's victory at Marquette.

"It was very emotional, it was really tough," Adrien said. "All of the memories were going through my head. It goes by so quick. It was a great feeling. This was a wonderful day.

"Words can't really define what I'm going through. The whole atmosphere here today, the students, the fans were just wonderful."

A junior projected as a potential lottery pick in this year's NBA draft, Thabeet completely dominated the paint in what could have been his last home game with the Huskies.

The 7-3 Tanzanian spearheaded a defensive effort in which high-powered Notre Dame shot just under 39 percent (28-of-72) from the floor.

"It was a great game today," Thabeet said. "The seniors couldn't play as emotional as they wanted to. A game like this we just wanted to get a win."

"It's just really hard to get into the offensive rhythm that you're accustomed to playing, no matter who you are, with Thabeet in the middle," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "You've heard that all year. It just changes things for us."

The interior tandem of Adrien and Thabeet helped neutralize Notre Dame center Luke Harangody, who finished with 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting. The Big East's leading scorer, Harangody entered averaging 24.2 points per game.

"Luke Harangody is just a terrific, terrific player," Calhoun said. "To be able to somewhat neutralize him was an incredible accomplishment."

"The team defense today was tremendous," Thabeet added. "I got help a lot of times. We're just happy we were able to stop them from scoring as much as they wanted to."

Adrien, Austrie and fellow scholarship senior Craig Austrie all were honored before the game, which marked Jim Calhoun's first home contest since the longtime UConn coach made inflammatory remarks to a reporter during a post-game conference last weekend.

"The ceremony was very special," Price said. "Notre Dame played us so tough we really couldn't appreciate (the day) until we all came out with two seconds left. Those last two seconds were really the only time I realized that that would be my last time playing at Gampel."

Calhoun has received national attention since vehemently defending his $1.6 million salary in an exchange with a freelance journalist following last Saturday's victory over South Florida.

The 66-year-old Calhoun, who recorded his 800th career victory Wednesday, received a pair of standing ovations Saturday from the raucous crowd at Gampel.

Tory Jackson scored 17 points to pace the Fighting Irish, who have lost seven of their last eight road contests and will need a miracle to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Although UConn got off to a fast start thanks to Thabeet, who scored seven of the Huskies' first 11 points, Notre Dame closed to within 32-30 at halftime and took a three-point lead early in the second half.

After tying the score on multiple occasions over the final 10 minutes, Notre Dame closed its deficit to 66-65 on Harangody's running layup with 59 seconds left.

But on the ensuing possession, Price lobbed a pass to Thabeet, who absorbed a hard foul from Harangody and was forced to leave the contest with an apparent rib injury. Austrie entered the game and sank two free throws, giving the Huskies a 68-65 cushion.

Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney missed a potential tying 3-pointer on the following trip, and Austrie, Adrien and Price combined to score the game's final four points from the free-throw line.