The 17th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish put a couple of win streaks on the line on Saturday afternoon, as they play host to the Connecticut Huskies in Big East action.
Mike Brey's team is seeking its 13th straight victory and hopes to move to 12-0 at home this year in this one. The Irish have won 14 of their 15 games this season, with the lone loss coming against Saint Joseph's in overtime back on Nov. 16. The team has run the table since, including opening league play with wins over Seton Hall (93-74) and most recently, Cincinnati (66-60).
Kevin Ollie's first season at Connecticut has certainly had its share of successes. The Huskies are 11-3 on the year, with the marquee victory coming in the season-opener against Michigan State. More recently, the team has won five of its last six games, including a 99-78 rout of DePaul on Tuesday to pull even at 1-1 in Big East play.
UConn holds a 17-10 advantage the series with Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish have won four of the last five meetings. The team teams split a pair of matchups last season, each winning on the road.
Connecticut shot 49.3 percent from the floor and converted 21-of-27 from the free-throw line, finishing just one point shy of the century mark in a lopsided win over the Blue Demons. Deandre Daniels led the way with 26 points. Ryan Boatright was a close second, pouring in 22 points. Shabazz Napier added 16 points to the scoring deluge, while dishing out seven assists. Tyler Olander wrapped things up with 10 points.
Although UConn is shooting an efficient .463 on the year, the scoring has come as easy as it did against DePaul. the Huskies are averaging 73.1 ppg on the year, with four of the team's five starters averaging double figures. Napier and Boatright are a potent one-two punch in the backcourt, averaging 17.4 and 16.2 ppg, respectively. The pair actively get others involved as well, combining for 119 of the team's 189 assists to date. Daniels (11.2 ppg) and Omar Calhoun (10.6 ppg) round out the top scoring threats.
The Irish were able to convert half of their shots against Cincinnati (24- of-48), including 9-of-16 from behind the arc in a six-point win. All five starters finished in double figures in the victory, led by Jerian Grant's 19 points. Scott Martin added 12 points to the cause, followed by Jack Cooley (11 pts), Eric Atkins (10 pts) and Pat Connaughton (10 pts).
Efficiency in terms of shooting is nothing new to Notre Dame, which comes into this contest converting 51.4 percent from the floor, good for fifth nationally. The team has also benefited from strong perimeter play, knocking down 41.5 percent from behind the arc (ninth nationally). The strong perimeter game is enhanced by Cooley's dominance down low. The 6-foot-9 senior is converting 61.3 percent of his shots and is averaging a double-double with team-highs of 15.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Grant is next in line at 12.7 ppg, followed by Atkins' 11.2 ppg. The pair of guards have done a great job in terms of passing, combining for 178 assists thus far.