Jewell Loyd did all she could to lead Notre Dame over rival Connecticut.
Unfortunately for the Irish, the preseason All-American's teammates did little on offense in the No. 2 Irish's 76-58 loss to third-ranked UConn on Saturday in the Jimmy V Classic.
Loyd scored 31 points while the other four starters had just 20 combined.
"I thought Jewell was the best player on the court," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "We didn't give her any help at all."
Loyd scored 15 points in the first 10 minutes as Notre Dame (8-1) jumped out to a 28-18 advantage much to the delight of the sellout crowd. Then UConn took over, scoring 16 straight during a 22-4 run to close the half.
"We looked like a deer in headlights. We made some shots early and when things are going good, a young team is going to kind of roll along," McGraw said. "When things go bad, Jewell was the only one who wanted the ball. That was a problem."
It didn't get much better in the second half for the Irish. Morgan Tuck scored six points during a 10-2 run to open the second half for UConn and extend the lead. Loyd tried to keep the Irish in it. She caught an acrobatic alley-oop and was fouled to get Notre Dame within 14, but the Irish couldn't get much closer.
This was the first meeting since the two teams played last April in the national championship game, the Huskies came away with a 79-58 victory. Both teams were unbeaten at that point setting up the first matchup of undefeated teams in NCAA championship history.
Tuck didn't play in that game as she was recovering from microfracture surgery in her right knee last January. She made her presence felt Saturday scoring a career-high 25 points to lead UConn (6-1).
"We played well today, we won in a place that's hard to win against a team that's really hard to beat," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Our players feel really good about that."
The loss ended a 34-game home winning streak for the Irish dating back to Baylor's win on Dec. 5, 2012.
"A few years ago, we lost to Baylor here I felt really good about that game afterward. They were No. 1 in the country. We really had a springboard from there," McGraw said. "If we can do that again, learn from this, we'll be a lot better."
"We need to get tougher. I don't think we're tough enough. I don't think we have the mentality of toughness the last four teams had," McGraw said. "I think Jewell has it. I think there's a couple of people that have a little bit of toughness. Sometimes it's a quiet toughness. We need a vocal leader. Jewell is trying to do that, but she's got enough to do. I really would like someone else to do that one."
Notre Dame was missing freshman Brianna Turner, who injured her right shoulder against Maryland. She's averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Irish.
"She is our best rebounder. We don't have her and I think she can rebound and defend," McGraw said. "Definitely someone we need to get back in the lineup. Don't know if that would have changed things in the end."
This was the 17th meeting between the schools since Jan. 16, 2010. UConn has won 10 of them, but the Irish won seven of eight in the series from 2011-2013. The two former Big East rivals didn't meet during the regular season last year after Notre Dame left for the ACC. The two teams will play again next year in the Jimmy V Classic in Connecticut.
Notre Dame: Saturday's loss also snapped a 66-game regular-season winning streak for the Irish dating back to the Baylor game.
UConn: Kiah Stokes' brother Darius was in the crowd along with the rest of her family sitting right behind the UConn bench. He plays for Fairleigh Dickinson, which was facing the Irish's men's team Saturday night.
UConn: hosts No. 25 DePaul in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Dec. 19.
Notre Dame: visits DePaul on Wednesday.
The V Foundation and ESPN announced a $100,000 grant to fund pediatric brain cancer research in honor of Lauren Hill. Hill, the Mount St. Joseph University women's basketball player, has shared her fight against cancer and inspired a national audience when scoring the first and last baskets of her team's season-opening win.
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