by Kevin O'Neill
Louisville rallied from a 46-32 halftime deficit to force overtime, and the Cardinals completed the comeback with an 83-77 overtime victory. Louisville will face Connecticut Saturday evening in the Big East Tournament finals.
Preston Knowles led Louisville with 20 points including 8 in the last 2:47 of regulation. Scott Martin led Notre Dame with 21 points. All five ND starters scored in double figures, but Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough had an uncharacteristic game, 3-16 from the field with 6 turnovers.
“I just did not have a very good night tonight. I just never got open,” Hansbrough said. “Even though they were in zone a lot, it never seemed like I could get open. I think it was just one of those nights. I’ve made those shots I took before. They just didn’t fall tonight.”
Louisville pushed the tempo and attacked the basket in the second half, and the approach was effective cutting the ND lead. Notre Dame weathered UL runs and pushed the lead back to 10 points twice, the last time with 10:00 left to play; but Louisville refused to quit. Meanwhile the Irish slowed the pace, and that seemed to work against them more than against Louisville. Notre Dame never found an offensive rhythm in the second half.
Louisville won the game on the boards. The teams had 16 rebounds apiece at halftime, but Louisville finished the game with a 49-35 rebounding advantage. UL’s 23 offensive rebounds led to 21 second chance points, and that was the difference in the game.
“Second shots hurt us, tried some man, tried some zone, and we probably couldn’t get into a very good offensive rhythm,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Their defense was very good. Having said that, we got some very good looks down the end and couldn’t make them.”
Notre Dame looked like the team that beat Cincinnati for most of the first half. The Irish made 57% of their shots and had 10 assists as they built the big halftime lead. Then came 32% second half shooting, 23% three point shooting, 7 turnovers, and the aforementioned beat-down on the boards. Credit Louisville. The Cardinals wanted the game, and they took it.
“In the second half, I said, ‘You guys got one shot at winning this game, you have to take their legs from under them, and it’ll pay off at the end,”‘ Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “‘You have to deny them and you have to press them and in the end, if we make our comeback, they won’t have any legs.”
Pitino was right.
- Martin’s 21 points are his career high. He also led the team with 8 rebounds.
- This was the third straight Notre Dame – Louisville game to require overtime to determine a winner.
- Notre Dame led by as many as 16 points in the first half. The final score was Louisville’s largest lead.
- Notre Dame hoped to make it to the Big East Tournament championship game for the first time. Alas…
- Louisville will play Connecticut for the tournament championship Saturday evening. Led by Kemba Walker’s 33 points, UConn defeated Syracuse in overtime 76-71. UConn will be playing its 5th game in 5 days.
The Irish will open the NCAA Tournament either Thursday or Friday at a site to be determined. We’ll post coverage of the tournament selections nd seedings on Sunday evening and a preview of the opponent the evening before the game.