Notre Dame-Louisville Preview
With the postseason just around the corner, Louisville is coming off what coach Rick Pitino said was probably its best performance of the season.
Notre Dame's Mike Brey, on the other hand, is eager to see how his group responds following a surprising loss.
Set to meet as members of the ACC for the first time, the 16th-ranked Cardinals and 12th-ranked Fighting Irish renew what's been a wild series over the years Wednesday night at the KFC Yum! Center.
These heavyweights have played a combined 13 overtimes in 13 matchups since 2006. They haven't met since being members of the Big East in 2013, with Notre Dame winning a five-overtime thriller before losing the next two meetings - the last in the conference tournament semifinals - by an average of 14.0 points.
"They've been exciting games, great for the fans. I don't necessarily think (this) game will be very exciting, unless you like rock fights," Pitino said. "We appreciate their style, and we have great camaraderie. It's a nice rivalry, its a friendly rivalry that we look forward to."
Louisville (23-6, 11-5) returns home seeking a fourth consecutive victory after easily getting by Florida State 81-59 on Saturday. Wayne Blackshear led five players in double figures with 18 points and Montrezl Harrell added 16 as the Cardinals reached the 70-point mark for the first time in eight games.
Louisville also forced 21 turnovers for its highest total in league play in its second game since former starting guard Chris Jones' dismissal.
"I think we responded as a team should respond to a difficult situation. We played great team basketball," Pitino said. "This was a great performance by us late in the season and we had to change our team, we are a different team now."
While Notre Dame has already secured a double-bye in the ACC tournament, fourth-place Louisville is still looking to lock one up. The Cardinals are one game behind the Irish with two to play, including another tough home matchup Saturday against No. 2 Virginia, the regular-season conference champion.
"Our fate is in our hands," Pitino said. "We have our hands full, but I think our guys are up for the challenge. ... We have to do a lot of things well to have a chance at beating either one of those teams."
Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4) is shooting 50.8 percent to rank second in the country, but it was held to 34.7 percent in last Tuesday's 65-60 defeat to Syracuse. Pat Connaughton, who finished with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, shot 3 of 7 from 3-point range while the rest of the team went 0 for 15 as the Irish couldn't solve the Orange's zone.
"I think the biggest thing is how will we play after a loss," Brey said. "You'll focus on that, can we bounce back after a loss? And just try and keep it in the now and not thinking ahead.
"They'll press us back to zone down there at Louisville, so we've got to get better at that."
Star senior Jerian Grant will look to come out with a better approach after finishing with 13 points while shooting 2 of 9. Grant leads the team with 16.9 points per game, and the Irish have won 14 in a row when he scores at least 15.
"We just have to be more aggressive," he said. "Against the zone, if you have a look you have to take it. Our offense usually passes up good shots for great shots, but against a zone you have to take the shots when you're open."
Grant is averaging 13.2 points on 28.6 percent shooting in five games against the Cardinals.
Notre Dame is 3-2 against ranked opponents, and Louisville has a 2-4 record in such games while shooting 34.7 percent.