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Men’s Basketball: Dealing with the Cards

Eric Prister | Thursday, February 10, 2011

In January 2009, Louisville and Notre Dame found themselves tied at the end of regulation at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. The Cardinals came out firing in the extra period and pulled out a 14-point victory.

Two years later, it was Notre Dame’s turn for revenge.

Led by seven points from senior forward Carlton Scott in the final five minutes, the No. 8 Irish stayed undefeated at home, beating No. 16 Louisville 89-79 at the Purcell Pavilion.

“It’s just two great teams battling it out,” senior guard Ben Hansbrough said after the game. “This game was very similar to two years ago, when it went into overtime and they just burst out and won by 14. That was very similar. We went out and took care of business in overtime.”

Hansbrough led the Irish with 25 points, including five 3-pointers. He said that he was not pleased with the team’s game offensively, but when overtime came, it was Notre Dame’s time to shine.

“We were trying so hard to make our runs that we really weren’t making our shots,” he said. “[Senior forward] Ty [Nash] missed a hook shot, I was missing some shots. I thought [fourth-year forward Tim Abromaitis] really stepped up and willed us to the win tonight. I’ll be honest with you, we were in a heck of a drought, but in overtime we just got things going. We were due. If you give us enough time, we’re going to start making some shots. To see our guys and the way they willed us back into it — it’s just a heck of a win for us tonight. This is one of the wins I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

Abromaitis finished the game with 23 points and eight rebounds. He made all nine of his foul shots, and played all but one minute against the Cardinals.

The Irish trailed for most of the first half, and by as much as eight with five minutes to go in the period. But 10 points from sophomore Jack Cooley in the last six minutes of the half kept them within four going to the locker room. Cardinals junior Kyle Kuric led the way for Louisville with 18 of his 28 points in the first, including a spectacular one-handed dunk to end the period.

“We probably feel in a game like that like you don’t deserve to be down four,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “You deserve to be down 12, so to be down four, you’re counting your blessings. Jack and [freshman guard] Eric [Atkins] gave us a great lift off the bench tonight. Jack was fabulous — he was scoring for us. We couldn’t score, and I felt tonight that we were going to have to get 85 or 90 to get out of here tonight.”

The back-and-forth game continued throughout the second half. The lead changed 10 times throughout the game and was tied 13 times. Louisville took a two-point lead with 1:19 to go before Nash drew a foul and made both free throws, tying the game 74-74.

With nine seconds to go, Notre Dame called a timeout and switched to a zone defense, which forced senior guard Preston Knowles to fire up an errant 3-point attempt as time expired in regulation.

“We did not talk about it in the timeout,” Brey said. “We talked about what we were going to do on the [sophomore guard Peyton] Siva ball-screen, and we kind of changed on the fly, and we did a great job. That’s veteran guys making it work. That helped us, and changed their rhythm a little bit, and forced a tough shot. You feel like if you can get to overtime in a game like that, we really felt like we had momentum getting to overtime, because it was not an easy one for us.”

The Irish won the tip-off to start the extra period and Hansbrough found an open Scott, whose 3-pointer sparked a 13-0 run for the Irish on their way to the victory.

“I don’t think Carlton had a smooth game, but when he had that clean look to start overtime, there was no second thought when he rose up to take that one,” Brey said. “It’s not surprising. They have the will to get to overtime, and that’s experience and maturity. This group has kind of been developed now and they’re a pretty confident group. They’ve won a lot now, and wow, is that a good habit to have.”