SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- Notre Dame finally has the win over a ranked team it so desperately needed.
Chris Thomas scored 31 points and Chris Quinn shook off an ankle injury to score 17 as Notre Dame snapped a three-game losing streak with an 80-74 victory over No. 5 Connecticut.
Notre Dame (11-9, 5-5 Big East) had lost all five of its games against ranked teams this season and squandered a 13-point lead in a loss to No. 4 Pittsburgh on Saturday. But the Fighting Irish kept their poise on Monday, taking the lead for good at 72-69 on a 3-pointer by Thomas with 2:48 left.
Notre Dame, which committed a season-low four turnovers, increased its lead to 78-69 solely on free throws, including two each by Thomas and Tom Timmermans.
"We really needed that one and I can't tell you how proud I am of our group," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We hung in there after that disappointing loss to Pittsburgh and we bounced back."
The Fighting Irish began the season in the national rankings, but likely need a strong finish if they are to make their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Brey's club took a step in the right direction by beating the Huskies for the first time in four meetings.
"Tonight was a special night, not only for myself, but for the team and the program," Thomas said. "The guys in here have worked so hard and to come in the locker room after three or four straight games and felt empty inside. This was huge for us. This is motivation just to show how well we can play together."
Notre Dame avoided its first four-game losing streak overall since the 1999-2000 season.
Torrian Jones added 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Fighting Irish overcame limited production from forward Torin Francis, who played just seven minutes due to back spasms.
Emeka Okafor scored 24 points and Ben Gordon 22 for Connecticut (19-4, 7-2), which had won its last four games. The Huskies, however, did not have another player score in double figures.
"I always thought we could win this game," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "I didn't like the attitude of our team. I didn't think we were poised on offense. We didn't have more than 10 fast-break points."
Quinn twisted his ankle while driving to the basket with 13:54 left, but the Fighting Irish were able to survive thanks to Thomas, who scored seven straight Notre Dame points at one point, including a pair of 3-pointers, to increase the Fighting Irish lead to 63-57 with 8:25 left.
Connecticut made sure the Fighting Irish would not pull away and finally drew even at 69-69 on a turnaround jumper by Okafor with 3:08 left.
"You just have to take a loss like this and rebound from it," Okafor said.
After receiving medical treatment, Quinn returned later in the second half and had a free throw that made it 73-69.