HARTFORD, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Notre Dame's recent hot play ended, thanks to a team effort from Emeka Okafor and Connecticut.
Okafor collected 14 points, a career-high 22 rebounds and seven blocks as the eighth-ranked Huskies avenged an earlier loss to the Fighting Irish with a 61-50 Big East Conference victory at the Hartford Civic Center.
Notre Dame (13-10, 7-6 Big East) defeated Connecticut, Seton Hall and Syracuse in succession to resurrect its NCAA Tournament hopes. The Fighting Irish won the last two without star forward Torin Francis, who was out again with back problems.
Connecticut (21-5, 9-3) netted the first 10 points, holding Notre Dame scoreless for nearly the first six minutes. The Huskies keyed on Chris Thomas throughout as the high-scoring guard was held scoreless in the first half and totaled 13 points on 6-of-23 shooting.
Thomas, defended primarily by Taliek Brown, scored 31 points in the first meeting with the Huskies.
"I took it as a real challenge," Brown said. "He got off to a slow start. So in the second half, he said, 'It's going to be a great half.' I said, 'You ain't getting 31 on me today, I'm sorry.'"
Thomas pulled Notre Dame within 46-42 on a bank shot with 8:47 left. But UConn clamped down on him and scored 10 of the next 12 points, the final five by Rashad Anderson for a 56-44 cushion at the 3:44 mark.
Okafor single-handedly allowed UConn to hold a commanding 59-30 advantage on the glass, taking full advantage of Francis' absence. Freshman Josh Boone added 11 boards while no one on the Fighting Irish had more than five.
"They can talk all about national players of the year," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "Playing at this level, in one of the top two or three conferences in America, to do what he's doing - 20 points a game, today he only had 22 rebounds - there's no more valuable player in the country."
The Huskies' backcourt of Brown and Ben Gordon combined to make just 2-of-18 shots but helped stifle Thomas and backcourt partner Chris Quinn. Quinn failed to reach double figures for the first time in four games with nine points on 4-of-13 shooting.
"They really defended today, I give them a lot of credit," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "I've watched a lot of tape on them (and) I don't know if they've ever got into people like they did today defensively."
Notre Dame shot just under 30 percent (19-of-64) from the floor en route to its lowest point total of the season.
To their credit, the Irish also played some tough defense as Thomas had five of their 10 steals. UConn shot 36 percent (21-of-59) as Thomas and Quinn did their part to stifle the perimeter.
The Huskies improved to 16-1 at home in their final game at the Civic Center.