BOZICH | Notre Dame drops Louisville to 0-2 ACC start - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Notre Dame drops Louisville to 0-2 ACC start

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Louisville played its second ACC game at Notre Dame Wednesday night. Louisville played its second ACC game at Notre Dame Wednesday night.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WDRB) — If you were looking for the perfect night to play Notre Dame without waking up the echoes, Wednesday night was The Night.

No students.

No pep band. 

Neither Manti T’eo nor Lennay Kekua were in the house.

Purcell Pavilion was so much quieter than normal that Notre Dame started running videoboard teases for more noise midway through the first half — and did it again less than five minutes into the second half.

Didn’t matter. 

Coach Mike Brey and his free-throw shooting machine (best in the nation) huffed and puffed and held off the University of Louisville, 77-70.

Notre Dame started the game shooting 84 percent from the line — and exceeded that performance by making 22 of 25 (88 percent). Notre Dame scored 11 of its final 13 points from the foul line.

The Cards never led in the second half. They had a possession to go ahead in the final two minutes but a pass from Ray Spalding to Anas Mahmoud resulted in a turnover with the Cards trailing, 69-68.

After two Notre Dame turnovers, Deng Adel lost the ball on the Cards’ next possession and Louisville never recovered.

The loss dropped the Cardinals to 0-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the first time U of L has started 0-2 during their three seasons in the league.

In the end, it didn’t matter that Digger Phelps was the only sign of past Notre Dame glory. 

Like Louisville, Notre Dame had lost only two of its first 14 games. Led Villanova by 11. Lost by eight. Led Purdue by 17. Lost by five.

The Irish led the Cards by 10 points in the first half and by as many as nine in the second.

Louisville was the taller, swifter and deeper team. When I visited with Phelps at halftime, we agreed this would be the key factor in the second half — Notre Dame’s ability to withstand Rick Pitino’s ability to wear Notre Dame with his bench.

Pitino tried everybody. Mangok Mathiang came off the bench and made his first field goal in five games. Ryan McMahon played essential minutes in the second half. He missed one three-point shot. He kept firing, converting his next one from the left corner to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 59-56 with less than eight minutes to play.

He was not finished. McMahon parked himself on the right wing, faked, drew Notre Dame’s Matt Ferrell into the air, earning a foul and three free throws.

McMahon, who posed with family members for pictures on the court before the game, made two of them. That pulled Louisville within 61-60.

Not for long.

Notre Dame’s designated shooter, Rex Pflueger, made his first three-point shot from the left corner to push the Irish back ahead, 64-60. 

Louisville’s depth never truly kicked in. The Cards’ subs only outscored Notre Dame, 16-11.

As Charlie Strong once argued, you have to pack your defense to win on the road. Notre Dame made better than 47 percent of its shots in the first half. The Cardinals only turned the Irish over five times.

Donovan Mitchell looked like the same guy who torched Indiana for 25 points on Saturday. He scored 16 of Louisville’s 37 points in the first half. He finished with 20.

Anas Mahmoud, starting for the second game, performed as if he intends to remain the starting center, blocking four shots in the first half. He finished with six swats.

They needed help. Notre Dame, instead of tiring at the end of the game, simply walked to the free-throw line and made the shots. Louisville did not go to the basket enough, launched 27 three-pointers in the game and wound up being outscored 22-13 at the stripe. After holding Notre Dame without a field goal for more than three minutes, Louisville went the final 2:39 of the game without a field goal of its own. 

The Cardinals are booked for another road game before they return to the KFC Yum! Center for three straight games. They visit Georgia Tech in Atlanta at 2 p.m Saturday. 

Strange team, the Yellow Jackets. They were blasted by Duke, 110-57, Wednesday, four days after Tech beat North Carolina by a dozen points in Atlanta. Tech is 9-5, with home losses to Ohio University and Georgia.

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