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Late night in Louisville

Michael Bryan | Thursday, February 18, 2010

For 50 minutes, the Irish fought and left their hearts on the floor, but Notre Dame came up just short in double-overtime on the road to Louisville. Two free throws by Cardinals sophomore Samardo Samuels gave Louisville the win, and Samuels had a career-high 36 in the game.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder of a group in a loss,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We had a lot of opportunities tonight but just couldn’t get it, but a lot of guys had to help us tonight.”

The Irish, already short on depth with an injured senior forward Luke Harangody on the bench, struggled to defend the 6-foot-9, 260 pound Samuels inside, as the forward picked up foul after foul inside. Forwards junior Tyrone Nash and freshman Jack Cooley, who played a career high 19 minutes, each fouled out early in the second half.

Harangody missed his second straight game with a knee injury but is expected to return next week against Pittsburgh.

The game was a close contest from the outset, with both sides playing intense defense. Neither team earned a lead greater than 3 points in the first 10 minutes, and an early Nash jumper tied the game at 18.

Louisville then went on a 10-0 run to grab a 7-point lead, but even on the road without Harangody, the Irish weren’t fazed. A junior forward Tim Abromaitis jump-shot found net just before halftime to cut the Cardinals lead to 37-36 at the break.

The second half was another battle, as neither team led by more than 3 points the entire way. A huge 3-pointer from junior forward Carleton Scott with a little over 2 minutes to go gave the Irish a late 65-64 lead.

Freshman forward Mike Broghammer, who hadn’t scored in a Notre Dame game since Bucknell on Dec. 12, then entered the contest for the final, heart-pounding minutes with Nash and Cooley fouled out.

“Broghammer gave us good minutes, Jack Cooley gave us a presence inside,” Brey said. “Everybody that played helped us out tonight. It’s something you’re proud of, but it’s just so sad we couldn’t finish that things since we had a couple shots to win it.”

An offensive rebound and put-back by Broghammer extended the Notre Dame lead to 3, but three Louisville free throws in the final minute evened the score. Broghammer had an open look in the final seconds of regulation, but the attempt would not go down.

The exhausted Irish started the first overtime with surprising strength, taking a 6-point lead on an Abromaitis dunk. The Cardinals then slowly whittled away the Notre Dame lead at the free throw line, eventually tying the game at 79. Senior guard Ben Hansbrough’s lay-up attempt with six seconds left was blocked by Samuels, and the teams went to second overtime.

The final period again came down the closing seconds, as Louisville went ahead 91-89 on two more Samuels free throws. Brey and the Irish appeared to be going for the win in the final seconds, but could not get a shot off against the Cardinals defense.
Abromaitis led the Irish with 29 points, followed by Hansbrough with 21 and Jackson with 19. Jackson played every second of the game, and Hansbrough played 48 minutes.

Notre Dame tallied 28 fouls trying to defend Samuels and Louisville inside, with Nash, Scott, Broghammer and Cooley all fouling out. Samuels made 16 of his 19 attempts from the free-throw line.

Brey said despite the gutsy performance without Harangody, the Irish weren’t satisfied with the effort.

“They don’t want any moral victories or consolation prizes,” Brey said.

The Irish will have a week off to recover from the heartbreaking loss before returning home next Wednesday against Pittsburgh.