SOUTH BEND -- Time and again, the sellout crowd at Purcell Pavilion came to its collective feet Saturday to try to give the home team a push.
And time and again one team responded -- but it wasn’t No. 17 Notre Dame.
Unranked Connecticut was quicker around the rim and to loose balls and tougher at winning time, all of which helped snap Notre Dame’s 12-game win streak with a 65-58 decision.
Losers for the first time in 57 days, Notre Dame falls to 14-2, 2-1 in the Big East.
Down five, Notre Dame climbed back within two on an Eric Atkins 3-pointer with 3:02 left. The Irish had a chance to tie but Jack Cooley was called for an offensive foul trying to set a screen for Jerian Grant with 2:04 left. The Irish mustered a stop on defense and when Atkins dribbled into the lane, faked and tossed in a short shot, it was 58 all with 1:13 remaining.
Grant then fouled Ryan Boatright, who hit two free throws. Grant then came up short on a drive, which led to another Husky rebound, which led to two more free throws by Boatright.
That made it 62-58 with 31.3 left.
Game effectively over.
It was familiar territory for Notre Dame against Connecticut. The Huskies snapped the Irish 45-game home win streak in 2009, and also broke their 29-game home win streak with a victory this time last year.
The Irish had won 17 straight at home since last January’s loss to Connecticut. The home team had no answer for Tyler Olander, who erupted for a career-high 16 points. Notre Dame also couldn’t rely on its defense to get that big stop at a key time. If it wasn’t Olander, it was guard Shabazz Napier or wing DeAndre Daniels.
Feeling the heat of the moment, Irish coach Mike Brey shed his suit coat with seven minutes to go. Even that didn’t help.
Notre Dame led by as many as eight and by six on three occasions in the first half, but never could shake Connecticut. That was thanks to Napier, who scored 13 points in the first 20 minutes.
Notre Dame returns to action Tuesday at St. John’s, which lost Saturday at home to Georgetown.