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UConn’s shell-shocking 26-6 run takes fight out of Notre Dame

It took a dominant fourth quarter, but the UConn Huskies were able to win their seventh-straight against Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon. Notre Dame looked like the better team for large portions of the game, but was unable to seal the deal.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Hartford, CT — UConn and Notre Dame renewed their annual rivalry Sunday afternoon, and this game marked the ninth-straight time these two teams have met while both being ranked in the top three in the country. This season’s meeting went the way the last nine out of ten had gone when the Huskies face Notre Dame as the top-ranked team.

Despite a lopsided second quarter in the Fighting Irish’s favor, the Huskies were able to storm back, looking much more UConn-like in the fourth quarter, to win their seventh-straight game against Notre Dame, 80-71.

Notre Dame held an eight-point lead entering the fourth, but would see it cut to five less than four minutes into the final period. Katie Lou Samuelson played well before leaving the game with an injury early in the fourth. Samuelson missed the last four games with a foot injury, but finished Sunday’s game with a team-high 18 points.

Without Samuelson, the Huskies outscored Notre Dame 25-9 in the fourth quarter, retaking the lead just after the media timeout thanks to an 11-3 run. The fourth quarter was all UConn, as they played with a poise that many Husky teams have played with before them.

“I thought when we took the lead (in the fourth), I think there was a change in the temperature in the game, you could see it,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I know that comeback we looked different, we acted different, and I think so did they when we took the lead.”

Five players scored in double figures for UConn. In addition to Samuelson’s 18, Napheesa Collier contributed 17 points and Azura Stephens was huge off the bench adding 17 of her own.

The Fighting Irish were led by Marina Mabrey’s 21 points, including four threes. Arike Ogunbowale had a great game attacking the basket, finishing with 19 points herself.

For a team that has been shooting way less 3-pointers this season, Marina Mabrey made some huge first half threes that allowed Notre Dame to extend their lead. After trialing by four after the first ten minutes, the second quarter was all Notre Dame as they were able to silence the ruckus crowd in Hartford for most of the first half.

The Fighting Irish outscored the Huskies 25-14 in the second, but it was an enormous 16-2 run over a six-minute stretch that allowed Notre Dame to open up a double-digit lead. Their lead would be as large as 12, until Dangerfield and Samuelson threes helped UConn cut the lead to seven at the half.

“We did a great job rebounding in the first half, but did not do a great job In the second half.” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “There was so many little plays where we got our hand on it, we tipped it around and then they made a layup. We just had a stretch of ugly, and unfortunately it was the last five minutes.”

Notre Dame came out halftime still able to get whatever they wanted in the paint. The held a 24-14 scoring edge in the paint through the first 20 minutes, and continued their slashing and cutting style of offense in the third quarter.

The Huskies struggled to protect the rim for much of the game before flipping the script in the fourth. UConn was out-rebounded for much of the game.The Fighting Irish did a good job attacking inside, and seemed to constantly find the open cutting player for a layup.

Notre Dame got away from what worked so well, allowing the Huskies to dominate the fourth quarter and snatch away the win.