SHELBYVILLE, KY –
When the No. 11 Louisville Cardinals (19-4, 7-3) take on No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-5, 6-4) tonight at the Joyce Center, they will be seeking their first win in South Bend in the last four tries. Their last victory in South Bend was an 85-82 overtime win Feb. 26, 1994. Notre Dame has a very good home court advantage again this season as they are 13-2 but 2-2 over their last four home contests. Their last two home losses came against Connecticut (68-58) on January 12 and Georgetown (63-47) on January 21st. The Cardinals are currently riding a three game win streak after dropping three straight starting back on January 19th, when they lost to then No. 6 Syracuse after reaching No. 1 for only the second time in school history. (Will Pitino and Siva be smiling after the tough road game at Notre Dame?- photo courtesy of collegebasketball.org)
Rick Pitino is well aware of the tough venue in the Joyce Center and is preparing his team for yet another close game. "Notre Dame has a great home-court advantage, one of the best in college basketball," Pitino said. "We've been in some really really tight ball games with Notre Dame, a lot of exciting ones, and this should be another exciting one." (Four of the last five Louisville vs. Notre Dame games have gone into overtime) If the Cardinals are going to snap their four game losing streak in South Bend, they will need to continue their great defensive play and turn over a Notre Dame team that ranks seventh in the nation (10.4 turnovers per game) more than a handful of times and convert those turnovers into easy transition baskets.
Notre Dame is led by leading scorer Jack Cooley, who is averages 14.8 points and a Big East-best 11.3 rebounds, ranking fifth in the nation in that category. Helping out Cooley is junior point guard, Eric Atkins (6-foot-2, 182 lbs.) who leads the team in assists per game (6.1) and steals per game (1.7). Atkins is also dangerous behind the arc, shooting .448%. The Irish will also count on junior guard, Jerian Grant (6-foot-5, 202 lbs.) who is averaging 12.7 ppg., 2.3 rpg., and 5.6 apg. Senior guard/forward, Scott Martin leads the team shooting .463% from three-point range hitting 31-67. It will be imperative for Louisville to stop the Irish, who lead the Big East in three-point shooting percentage (.391%), from getting hot from the outside. ( Notre Dame's Jack Cooley draws a defensive crowd and still usually finds a way to score. - photo courtesy of urbanchristiannews.com)
As woeful as the Cardinals’ offense has been at times this year it is still averaging more points per game (73.6, 47th overall) than Notre Dame (71.9, 78th overall) however Notre Dame leads the Cards in assist per game and field goal percentage. The Irish rank fourth in the country in assist at 17.8 per game and 12th nationally in field goal percentage at .487% while the Cards are 60th in assist at 14.9 per game and 91st in field goal percentage, shooting .450%. The Cards do have a distinct advantage in rankings in both the RPI (8th) and BPI (5th) compared to the Irish’s RPI (45th) and BPI (34th). Louisville currently sits in 3rd place in the Big East, half a game behind Syracuse and Marquette while Notre Dame is in 7th place but only 1.5 games out. As usual in the Big East race, these last games in February are all very important and have huge implications. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m.
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