The Connecticut backcourt duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 34 points and nine assists as the unranked Huskies upset No. 17 Notre Dame Saturday in South Bend, Ind., 65-58.
Boatright and Napier have been the engine of the Connecticut offense all season and, despite a tough matchup with Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant for Notre Dame, they each scored in double figures and orchestrated an offense that turned the ball over just seven times. Atkins finished with 18 points and four assists.
The biggest key for Connecticut Saturday was to contain Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley, an early candidate for the conference’s Player of the Year award. It is difficult to completely shut Cooley down, but forward DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander combined to hold Cooley to 14 points and nine rebounds.
Olander scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Daniels had eight points and nine rebounds.
The larger story here, though, is the continued success that Connecticut has enjoyed under coach Kevin Ollie in his first season after taking over for longtime head coach Jim Calhoun.
That, combined with a mass exodus of players in the offseason and a postseason ban due to a low APR, and the Huskies were supposed to struggle. But struggle they have not.
Saturday they played with poise on the road against a Top 25 team, a team that was supposed to exploit a big weakness, a lack of depth on the interior. But the Huskies found ways to win by limiting turnovers and shooting 51 percent from the field in a tough environment.
Connecticut returns to the floor Monday against No. 3 Louisville.