By Mac Cerullo, Sports Editor
Final Score: Notre Dame wins 70-67.
Disappointing doesn’t even begin to sum up this game. But here are some numbers that can.
Eight offensive rebounds, that’s right eight. UConn was getting to the rim, hitting shots, but they could not take advantage of the few times that the Irish did miss a shot, and it ultimately killed them. UConn is going to need to get more productivity out of their big men in the tournament next week. If Oriakhi and Okwandu are as ineffective as they were today, then I’m not sure if this team will even be able to make it out of the first round.
Given that UConn’s first round opponent will probably be either DePaul, South Florida or Rutgers, that’s a truely terrifying prospect.
Another stat: 9-0. That’s the run that Notre Dame went on after UConn took a 65-60 lead on the wake of their own 15-0 run. In that environment and with Hansbrough fouled out, you really can’t do anything but tip your hat to Notre Dame for regrouping and finding a way to win. That being said, UConn did not take advantage of the opportunities that they had to win, and that won’t fly in the postseason.
The Villanova and Marquette games are still on, so we won’t know who UConn’s first round opponent in the tournament will be for a little longer, but when we know more, we’ll be able to give a better opinion on what UConn faces and what they’ll need to do if they’re going to finish the season with more than a whimper.
We have an exciting game on our hands here. UConn finished the half strong, and went into the break with a 36-33 lead after playing catchup with Notre Dame for much of the half. Some highlights…
Notre Dame’s shooting: This team can hit their shots. The Irish shot 52% (12-23) from the field and made almost half of their three pointers (6-13). Ben Hansbrough is leading the way for the Irish, he has 11 points and has hit all three of his three-point attempts so far.
The 2-3 zone: Notre Dame switched to the dreaded 2-3 zone midway through the half and it’s worked well for them so far. UConn definitely saw their interior offense stagnate, but the Huskies have shot well enough to overcome it. Walker has 13 points for UConn, and the Huskies have gotten some contributions from Napier, Lamb and Oriakhi too. Defensively, UConn has done well despite Notre Dame’s shooting percentages.
Other facts: Notre Dame has turned the ball over six times. UConn’s bench is outscoring Notre Dame’s 14-5 (though Notre Dame has only used two players off their bench for a total of 14 minutes combined. The battle on the boards is a relatively even 14-13 favoring Notre Dame.
Second half starting now. Should be a close one throughout if this game continues anything like it started.
The UConn seniors were just honored a moment ago here at Gampel Pavilion. Donnell Beverly, Charles Okwandu and Kemba Walker each received a commemorative framed jersey and a rousing ovation from the crowd. When Kemba was announced, the student section began a “one more year” chant. Jordan Rich, the team’s head manager, was also honored in the ceremony.
Both teams have now taken the court and are warming up for tipoff, which is set to be in a couple of minutes. UConn comes into this one after losing a key road game at West Virginia. West Virginia is playing a tight game against Louisville right now, and the result of that game will play a major role in whether or not UConn receives a first round bye in the Big East tournament (should they win today.)
At 21-8, and 9-8 in the Big East, UConn is far from a bubble team, but given that the team has lost three of its last four games, the team could use a big win over a top 10 team going into the postseason. The last time UConn and Notre Dame played earlier this year, ND came out on top 73-70 in a game that UConn could have won.
More on this game to come.