Coach Rick Pitino’s goal for his University of Louisville basketball team was finish their inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference on a strong note and get a double bye in the upcoming ACC tournament in Greensboro. The road got much tougher after the No 16 Cardinals were defeated by the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 71 – 59 in the KFC Yum Center.
The horrible weather outside of the Yum Center did not keep a crowd of 21,024 away from watching two teams that have formed quite a friendly rivalry over the past seven seasons. Louisville has a record of 8 – 5 against the Fighting Irish over that time span with seven of the games going to overtime.
Notre Dame controlled most of the game leading U of L for almost 36 total minutes. The Irish jumped out to a 26 – 18 first half lead thanks to five careless turnovers by the Cards. Louisville quickly cut the lead to one, only to have Notre Dame go on an 8 – 0 run to push the lead to nine. Jerian Grant made a tough, contested jumper at the buzzer to give the Irish a 42 – 31 lead.
Thanks to three assists, a steal, and a layup by Terry Rozier, the Cards stormed back to start the second half to tie the game at 42. Rozier was held to six points and had three turnovers in the first half.
Louisville eventually took the lead 47 – 46 on a Montrezl Harrell jumper, but Notre Dame did exactly what they had done the entire night when the Cardinals closed in, they immediately jumped back ahead. This time it was for good as reserve forward, Bonzie Colson, made a layup to put the Irish ahead 48 – 47.
Colson made all seven of his field goal attempts and finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds. He is the hottest Irish player of late, hitting an astounding 19 of his 24 shots in the past three games. Mike Brey praised his prized freshman saying, “Bonzie Colson just keeps climbing the ladder and getting more confident and being such a key guy for us.”
The Cards were led once again by Montrezl Harrell. Harrell had a game high 23 points and 12 rebounds, but struggled at the free throw line. Pitino mentioned the free throw woes, “The other thing, when you’re in a close game, you’ve got to make free throws guys. You can’t go down, let them make two, and then you miss the front end of a one-and-one. You got to make free throws.” Harrell was 7 – 12 from the free throw line.
Rozier once again struggled with his shot. He scored 11 points, well below his season average of 17.4. He did so by making only 5 of his 14 shot attempts. Pitino was asked if Rozier was pressing. “I think Terry is taking bad shots. He was 0 for 5 on challenged shots. So if you call a press… I don’t know why he’s pressing because if he thinks scoring 20 points is going to impress the pros, he’s wrong. So I don’t know the motive behind pressing. So it looks like he is, but he’s taking bad shots. If you take bad shots, you’re going to go 0 for 5 like he did on challenged shots tonight.” Pitino said.
Notre Dame improved to 25 – 5 on the regular season. Louisville fell to 23 – 7.
The road to a double bye gets much harder this weekend. The second ranked Virginia Cavaliers come in to the Yum Center to challenge Louisville. Virginia defeated Louisville in Virginia 52 – 47 on February 7.