SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

January 30, 2012

A classic homecoming for Connaughton as Fighting Irish take down UConn

HARTFORD, Conn. — Notre Dame senior guard Scott Martin surveyed the somewhat chaotic but deliriously happy postgame scene at the XL Center here yesterday and just shook his head.

Hundreds of people from the North Shore and his hometown of Arlington had come out to see former St. John's Prep great Pat Connaughton play against the University of Connecticut and now, after a stunning 50-48 upset over the No. 19 Huskies, it seemed that everyone wanted a piece of him.

Martin was thrilled for his freshman teammate and friend.

"Yeah, just look at this," Martin said. "I don't even KNOW as many people as (Connaughton) is seeing today. And they all came to see him play this game? This is something else."

Connaughton has never been one to call attention to himself in an artificial kind of way. He lets his play on the court speak on his behalf, and lately the volume has been turned up.

Anyone who said that Connaughton would never be able to play against the so-called big boys at the highest level of college basketball, particularly as a freshman, should've seen this game.

Connaughton nailed a pair of 3-pointers and finished with eight points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. He hit two critical free throws with 51.9 seconds remaining, making it a two-possession game in favor of the Fighting Irish, 47-42. Overall, his impact was much larger than anything that showed up on the stat sheet.

From the opposition's standpoint, Connaughton is an aggravating player. Why is it that, at 6-foot-5, he rebounds better than guys who are bigger and stronger? He plays intelligently, too, clearing himself for three-point opportunities or making backdoor cuts when the defense falls asleep. And hard-nosed defense has become one of his staples.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun displayed his respect for Connaughton yesterday by often putting sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb on him. Lamb is merely one of the most gifted and athletic players in the country.

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