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Men’s Basketball: Rivalry revisited with Louisville

Mike Monaco | Friday, March 15, 2013

NEW YORK – No. 24 Notre Dame squares off with No. 8 Louisville in the Big East semifinals Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. between the No. 6 seed Irish (25-8) and the No. 2 seed Cardinals (27-5). We analyze the rivalry by the numbers here.

3: Consecutive seasons in which Notre Dame and Louisville have faced off in the Big East semifinals. The Cardinals have won the past two matchups. Louisville downed the Irish in overtime, 83-77, in 2011 and bested them again, 64-50, last year. Irish coach Mike Brey said Thursday, “First we’ve got to get through the wave. Last year in the semis, they turned us over in the first half and kind of broke us. So you’ve got to get through that wave.”

65: Minutes played during the epic Feb. 9 game at Purcell Pavilion between these squads. Notre Dame won 104-101 in five overtimes. That was the last loss for Louisville, which is now riding an eight-game winning streak.

12: Points scored in a 28-second span at the end of regulation by Irish junior guard Jerian Grant to tie the five-overtime game. Grant drained three consecutive 3-pointers and capped off the comeback with a three-point play in the paint to force the first of the extra periods.

71.4: Percent of the past seven games (5-of-7) between Notre Dame and Louisville that have been decided in overtime. The Irish are 3-2 in those overtime games, including wins in each of the last two extra-time tilts. Brey said Thursday, “Here we go again. When the games have been in overtime, that’s when we’ve gotten our wins. When they’ve won, they’ve usually thumped us. I hope it’s overtime.”

6: Days ago that these teams played at the KFC Yum! Center in the regular season finale. Louisville bounced back from the five-overtime loss and trounced the Irish 73-57. Brey said Thursday, “They’re really good. We just played them last Saturday, and they’re playing with a great rhythm, and it comes down to taking care of the ball. We took care of the ball last Saturday, but their half-court defense is so good, it was so hard to get a good shot that many of the shots we took were turnovers because it was a struggle to get a good shot. That’s where we’re going to have to really work.”

20: Points scored by Louisville junior center Gorgui Dieng during that win by the Cardinals on March 9. Dieng added 11 rebounds and five blocks. Irish senior center Garrick Sherman said Thursday of Dieng, “He’s so long and so athletic. He does a lot of things well for them. It’ll be another challenge but nothing we haven’t overcome before, so we’re excited.” Irish sophomore forward Pat Connaughton added, “We got thumped so to speak. It wasn’t a good performance by us. We want another shot just like we got another shot with Marquette. … The goal is not to get to the semifinal, it’s to get to the final.”

4: Consecutive Big East semifinal appearances for Notre Dame. The Irish have lost in each of the previous three seasons. The streak is a program-best for Notre Dame. The Irish are also the first school to make it to four straight Big East semifinals since Connecticut completed the quartet from 2002-05.

0: Semifinal wins for Notre Dame in Big East history. The Irish are 0-5 and, in addition to losing in the past three seasons, fell in 2002 and 2007.

12: 3-pointers made by Connaughton in the past two games. Connaughton is 12-for-18 from long distance, and the 12 triples are tied for the most in Big East tournament history over a two-game span. On Saturday, Connaughton shot 2-for-5 from beyond the arc against the Cardinals. The Irish shot just 5-for-19 from three as a team. On Feb. 9, Connaughton was 1-of-7 on 3-pointers and the Notre Dame was 7-for-25 in total. Brey said Thursday, “We’ve got to really control tempo, and … we’ve got to shoot it well. We didn’t shoot it well [against Louisville previously]. We shot it well here two nights [in a row]. You’ve got to shoot over the top of their defense a little bit.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu