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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame set for clash with Louisville

| Wednesday, March 4, 2015

With a second open weekend in a three-week span, Mike Brey has found himself a bit bored of late.

“You don’t know what to do with yourself,” the Irish head coach quipped.

If history is any indication, Wednesday’s clash with No. 16 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center should be the proper pick-me-up for Brey and the No. 12 Irish.

Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4 ACC) and Louisville (23-6, 11-5) met 13 times while members of the Big East, and seven of those games were decided in overtime.

“I can’t put my finger on why, but my god have they been good college games,” Brey said.

The Irish, who have sewn up a top-four seed and a double bye in next week’s ACC tournament with two regular-season games remaining, and the Cardinals did not meet last season with Louisville in the American Athletic Conference and Notre Dame in the ACC.

Senior guard Jerian Grant goes up for a layup attempt during Notre Dame’s 65-60 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 24 at Purcell Pavilion. Grant finished tied for second in scoring for the Irish with 13 points.Jodi Lo | The Observer

Senior guard Jerian Grant goes up for a layup attempt during Notre Dame’s 65-60 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 24 at Purcell Pavilion. Grant finished tied for second in scoring for the Irish with 13 points.

“Everybody got a break,” Brey said. “Their heart and their blood pressure is better.”

Notre Dame was able to come to a resting rate last week after a frenetic, late comeback fell short against Syracuse on Tuesday. The Irish sliced to within two of the Orange with 39 seconds remaining before losing 65-60 at home. Seven days between games afforded the Irish the opportunity to rest, Brey the chance to recruit and Notre Dame the ability to log extended practice time heading toward the postseason.

Brey said it was crucial for Notre Dame to practice more against a zone defense, especially after the Irish offense went dormant against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Notre Dame shot 34.7 percent from the floor and 3-for-22 (14 percent) from 3-point range.

“You just [getting] reps against it I think is a good thing,” Brey said. “The days we’ve looked good, we’ve made shots.”

Louisville’s challenging zone defense coupled with Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino’s patented full-court press add up to an elite defense, ranked sixth in the country in defensive efficiency by Ken Pomeroy’s metrics.

“That’s sort of a double test of your mental toughness,” Brey said.

Notre Dame has spent the past three to four practices preparing for the pressure, and Brey said Notre Dame planned to pipe in crowd noise during Monday’s practice, simulating the raucous game environment of the 22,090-seat KFC Yum! Center.

“I think between dealing with the press and then the crowd noise, that’s a great test,” Brey said. “The crowd noise sometimes makes you play too fast.”

Freshman forward Bonzie Colson dunks the ball during Notre Dame’s 65-60 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 24 at Purcell Pavilion.  Kat Robinson | The Observer

Freshman forward Bonzie Colson dunks the ball during Notre Dame’s 65-60 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 24 at Purcell Pavilion.

On the road at Florida State this past Saturday, Louisville forced21 turnovers from the Seminoles and converted those miscues into 32 points en route to an 81-59 victory.

“I was real impressed after watching the tape of what our team did team-wise — moved the basketball very well, shot a good percentage, took high-percentage shots and played good defense,” Pitino said.

The Cardinals have won three in a row, the last two without senior guard Chris Jones, who was dismissed from the team Feb. 22. In three total games without Jones, freshman guard Quentin Snider has averaged 10 points and four assists. Pitino said Jones needs to improve in the pick and roll and better understand when not to pick up his dribble in the lane.

Cardinals sophomore guard Terry Rozier (17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) and junior forward Montrezl Harrel (15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds) pace Louisville, which currently holds fourth place in the ACC ahead of North Carolina.

Notre Dame can finish anywhere from second through fourth in the conference, while Louisville could slot third, fourth or fifth.

Brey said he fully expects drama Wednesday.

“It’s just one of those great rivalries,” Pitino said. “Every game is exciting and a lot of anxious moments.”

Notre Dame and Louisville tip off Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

Contact Mike