Jan. 30, 2005
By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - It was supposed to be a mismatch up front when Connecticut faced Notre Dame. It was - only it was the Irish who dominated.
"Latimore and Torin Francis were a little too much to handle," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "They completely dominated our frontcourt."
Connecticut's game plan was to try to take away Notre Dame's outside game and make the Irish beat them inside. The Irish did.
"Everyone always talks about us as a shooting team and they question our frontcourt. After today, I don't think there's anything left to question," Francis said. "I think we have the best frontcourt. We haven't done much to show that yet, but this is a big step."
The game wasn't decided, though, until the closing seconds. After shooting 50 percent for most of the game, UConn missed its final five shots, including a breakaway layup by Marcus Williams that would have tied the game at 76 with 15 seconds left. Instead, Williams' shot came up short and he fouled Chris Thomas on the rebound. Thomas made two free throws to give the Irish the four-point lead.
"No excuses. I think I was going too fast," Williams said. "I thought he was going to foul me to make the free throws, but there's still no excuse."
UConn (12-5, 4-3 Big East) missed its final two 3-point attempts as time ran out, giving Notre Dame its first win over a ranked team since beating the ninth-ranked Huskies a year ago.
Thomas had 11 of his 15 points in the second half for the Irish (13-5, 5-3), who had lost two straight.
The student section swarmed the floor to celebrate the victory.
"This is a huge win for us coming off of two losses," said Chris Quinn, who added 12 points for the Irish.
The Huskies led by an many as seven points early in the second half, but the Irish used a 9-3 run to tie the score at 61 when Thomas drove the lane for a layup midway through the second half. The game was close the rest of the way.
Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 4:36 left to give the Irish a 70-69 lead. Then Latimore scored inside to give the Irish a 72-71 lead.
Left unguarded, Williams hit a 3-pointer with 3:10 left to give the Huskies a 74-72 lead. But UConn didn't score again. Francis dunked over Charlie Villanueva to tie the score at 74.
Irish coach Mike Brey said he knew then the Irish would win.
"That's one that says to his teammates, `We're going to get this one,"' he said.
Latimore added a basket inside to give the Irish the lead, and Thomas put the game away with his free throws.
Denham Brown led the Huskies with 20 points, while Rudy Gay had 16. Williams had 10 points and tied the school record with 16 assists.
Josh Boone, UConn's leading scorer at 14.8 points a game, had six points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Villanueva, who averages 12.6 points, had six points on 2-of-8 shooting.
"We let it get away," Brown said. "We came out knowing this could happen and it did. This was a game that obviously got away from us."