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Cards turn tables on Irish in OT

Douglas Farmer | Sunday, March 13, 2011

NEW YORK — No. 4 Notre Dame failed to hold a 14-point halftime lead as No. 14 Louisville topped the Irish 83-77 in overtime Friday night in the Big East semifinals.

“[Louisville] played well, especially in the second half, got the pressure on us, and second shots hurt us,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We probably couldn’t get into a very good offensive rhythm. Their defense was very good.”

Notre Dame (26-6, 15-5 Big East) held a 46-32 halftime lead after shooting 56.7 percent from the field, but shot 27.3 percent in the second half, making only six field goals.

“In the second half, I said, ‘You guys get one shot at winning this game. You’ve got to take their legs out from under them and it will pay off at the end,'” Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said.

Louisville (26-7, 24-7) opened the second half on an 11-4 run, cutting the Irish lead in half within five minutes. During one 6:56 span, Notre Dame did not make a single field goal, instead relying on eight consecutive free throws for its scoring. Yet Irish senior guard Ben Hansbrough took the final shot of regulation with a chance to win the game.

“We had some great looks down the stretch. We didn’t make them and they got us,” Brey said. “We defended great and had a chance to win the game in regulation and missed a tough one.”

The Cardinals relied on interior play to make its run, as Irish senior forward Tyrone Nash only played 21 minutes due to foul trouble. Louisville tallied 49 rebounds, including 23 offensive rebounds, while Notre Dame only pulled down 35 and 10, respectively. The Cardinals’ 23 offensive rebounds yielded 21 second-chance points.

“I think you have to credit them that they went to the offensive glass and that’s where they kind of hurt us in the second half,” Irish senior guard Scott Martin said. “They got some put-backs and tip-ins and that hurt us down the stretch.”

In overtime, both teams hits two field goals, but Louisville went 7-of-8 from the free throw line, while Notre Dame did not toe the charity stripe once.

“The one weakness [the Irish] may have is if you wear them out – if you go to the body for 11, 12 rounds – maybe you’ll get them at the end,” Pitino said. “That’s our only strategy because we couldn’t defend them.”

Hansbrough finished the night with 13 points on 3-of-16 shooting and six turnovers.

“I think it’s a perfect example of a guy who almost wanted it too much tonight,” Brey said of Hansbrough’s performance. “He has wanted it so much for his group. That’s why we got to the position we got in the regular season. I just think he wants it so much I just want to get him back and calm him down a little before we play in the next one.”

Martin led Notre Dame with a career-high 21 points and eight rebounds, both game highs.

“I don’t think it was anything unusual,” Martin said. “I got some jumpers in the beginning of the game, knocked it down and I got some balls tipped to me. I don’t think it was a different mindset or anything.”

Notre Dame now will wait until 6 p.m. Sunday to learn its seeding for the NCAA tournament, which tips off Thursday, while Louisville faces No. 21 Connecticut for the Big East tournament title Saturday at 9 p.m.

Brey said the Big East tournament experience prepared the Irish well for their upcoming games.

“I think it’s a great learning experience,” he said. “There is no question about it as we get into the next one. What an atmosphere in there tonight.”