After practice on December 28, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie was asked if Tyler Olander might be turning the corner.
“I like that thinking – yes,” Ollie replied, with a big smile. “I think he turned the corner. Write it. That’s all we’re going to say.”
Maybe it’s time to say it and write it again, if Olander’s performance against Notre Dame Saturday means anything. The junior forward from E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield scored a career-high 16 points and joined with guards Shabazz Napier (19 points) and Ryan Boatright (14 points) as UConn snapped No. 17 Notre Dame’s 12-game winning streak with a 65-58 victory at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind.
Olander led the way as UConn (12-3, 2-1 Big East) rallied from a 31-29 halftime deficit, shot 57.7 percent in the second half and also broke a 17-game home winning streak for Notre Dame (14-2, 2-1). Olander, who had a season-high 10 points in Tuesday’s win over DePaul, was 8-for-9 from the field, also had seven rebounds, one assist, one black and one steal in 31 minutes.
Credit Ollie for making an outstanding adjustment in the second half, noticing that the Huskies had a mismatch with Olander in the low post. Olander showed a variety of offensive moves against Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley (14 points, 9 rebounds), including a step-back jumper, hook shots and driving layups.
With Olander’s surprising contribution, UConn was able outscored Notre Dame 32-30 in the paint and, for the second consecutive game, the Huskies outrebounded an opponent – this time 34-28. That just doesn’t happen to Notre Dame – especially at home.
|Olander improved his scoring average from 4.6 to 5.3 in one game|
UConn ran outstanding, efficient offense in the second half, scoring of 15 of its first 21 possessions. Boatright, who had a large turnout of family and friends from his home in nearby Aurora, Ill., dunked off a lob from Napier. DeAndre Daniels had a big blocked shot. R.J. Evans scored only two points but it was a big basket off a missed shot that Enosch Wolf deflected to Evans for the follow up basket.
Boatright hit four consecutive free throws in the final 44 seconds as UConn pulled away, closing the game on a 7-0 run. The officiating crew allowed the two teams to play with only 23 fouls called. UConn was 7-for-11 from the line, while Notre Dame took just seven free throws and made four.
UConn won just about every statistical category, including points off turnovers (9-7), second chance points (13-12), blocked shots (4-1), and bench points (6-5). The Huskies had 15 assists and only seven turnovers.
The Huskies return home to play No. 3 Louisville Monday night at the XL Center.
Read the Associated Press story, notes and quotes here.