Is Notre Dame the New Team to Beat? - NBC Connecticut
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Is Notre Dame the New Team to Beat?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Huskies now have two losses on the season. That sentence by itself isn't necessarily reason for alarm. The football team averaged six losses a year during Randy Edsall's tenure. And the men's basketball team, despite its three national titles under Jim Calhoun, have lost about nine games a year during the past quarter-century.

    The women's team is a different story. Since 1994, UConn has three times gone undefeated, and five times during that time they've lost no more than two games the entire season.

    But now, barely a week into January, the Huskies are 12-2 (2-1 in the Big East) after losing to the team that put them out of the Final Four in March, Notre Dame.

    Bria Hartley, who has played well most of the season, finished with 25 points. But UConn also committed 27 turnovers and that, more than anything, was their undoing.

    “They [Notre Dame] took advantage of every situation we gave them to win the game,” Geno Auriemma said. “And they did [win the game]. We’re up by two points and have the ball with under a minute left. We’re supposed to win that game and we didn’t, we didn’t.”

    Skylar Diggins and Natalie Novosel, two of the Irish's best players, combined for 42 points as No. 3 Notre Dame improves to 15-1 (3-0).

    "We wanted to keep them under pressure," Diggins said via the Associated Press. "We wanted to slow the ball down at the guards and we wanted to protect the home court."

    Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw added: "Our defense late in the game was fantastic. We did a really good job down the stretch using the clock and getting to free throw line."

    As often happens win or loss, Auriemma was both blunt and realistic about what happened.

    “They are one of the top three teams in the country for a reason,” he said according to the Hartford Courant. “If you are thinking [as UConn] that you are just going to come in here [South Bend] after losing a kid who scored 3,000 points [Maya Moore] and kick their butt, you are dreaming. But this is Connecticut and there is no way we should lose this game [Saturday].”

    So is this the beginning of the end of UConn's Big East dynasty? Not only did the Irish put them out of last season's NCAA's and end Maya Moore's college career one game short of the championship, with Saturday's win they also snapped the Huskies' 57-game conference winning streak.

    "Well, we’ll see in 5 or 10 years,” Aureimma said about any possible Big East power shifts. “Notre Dame was there from 1997-2001, and then went away for awhile and then came back. So we will see if they can stay.  But, Notre Dame is one of the top teams in America and I don’t expect that to change, I wouldn’t think they will go anywhere but where they are right now. I can’t imagine that happening.”