Notre Dame is on the verge of its longest win streak in 59 years. Standing in its way is the only team to beat the Fighting Irish in their last 47 home games.
Coach Mike Brey's 17th-ranked squad seeks a 13th straight victory Saturday against Connecticut.Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0 Big East) has matched its longest win streak under Brey from 2006-07. Its last 13-game run was part of an 18-game streak in the 1953-54 campaign.The Fighting Irish, who have never started 3-0 in Big East play, are excelling on the strength of team play resulting in conference bests of 51.4 percent shooting overall, 41.5 percent from 3-point range and 19.5 assists per game."That's been our program," Brey said. "There's a culture of passing the ball here. We recruit basketball IQ guys, and I think there's a lot of trust that we're going to keep moving that thing. That's why we have great balance."That balance features seven players averaging at least eight points, with Jack Cooley leading the way at 15.2 along with 11.2 rebounds per game to place him among the nation's leaders. All five starters scored in double figures in Monday's 66-60 win at No. 21 Cincinnati.The Fighting Irish have won 17 straight at home and 46 of their last 47 there, but the lone blemish was a 67-53 defeat to Connecticut (11-3, 1-1) last Jan. 14. Notre Dame has won four of the last five meetings overall, earning a measure of revenge for that loss with a 50-48 road victory Jan. 29."Looking forward to a great matchup going up to Notre Dame, playing a great team that's always played with poise, they always compete," Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. "It's going to be a good challenge for our guys to play in an environment like that."Cooley has never enjoyed much success against the Huskies entering the senior's final meeting against them since Connecticut cannot play in the postseason. He has totaled 22 points and 27 boards in six previous games against the Huskies, including 15 and 13 in two as a starter last season.It should be easier for him on the glass this season with UConn last among in the nation's six major conferences in rebound margin at minus-4.0."The one thing that has been a little different with this Connecticut team, where they have struggled a little bit at times is on both backboards," Notre Dame assistant coach Rod Balanis said. "I think they've been outrebounded in 11 of the last 14 games."The Huskies have some positive momentum after enjoying a 49-29 advantage on the glass in a 99-78 home win over DePaul on Tuesday. DeAndre Daniels scored a career-high 26 points and guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier combined for 38, with Napier adding seven assists and four steals.Those guards are a primary concern for Notre Dame."They're a great transition team, they get outlets out and especially you mention those two guards -- Napier and Boatright -- terrific in the open court," Balanis said.The Irish feature their own solid playmaker in Eric Atkins, who averaged 16.5 points against UConn last season and is shooting 45.2 percent on 3-pointers in 2012-13 while averaging 7.3 assists.