Louisville-Notre Dame Preview

Louisville denied Notre Dame a place in its first Big East

championship game last season in a contest that predictably went

overtime.

These teams meet once again with a spot in the title game on the

line in what could be a long Friday night since the No. 23 Fighting

Irish and Cardinals have seen their last four matchups go past

regulation.

Louisville (24-9) won 83-77 in overtime over Notre Dame (22-10)

last year in the semifinals after erasing a 14-point halftime

deficit.

“I really believe this group, of all my teams, is most equipped

to get to Saturday night,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose

team is in the Big East semifinals for the fifth time. “It’s

something we talked about in our program for a while. It’s the next

step.

“I think our program has been extremely consistent and solid in

the Big East, but playing on Saturday would mean a lot, and I think

this group has really digested it. Of course, we played the same

guys who stopped us from getting there last year in

Louisville.”

The Fighting Irish earned a measure of revenge against the

Cardinals with a 67-65 road victory in double overtime Jan. 7. Jack

Cooley and Scott Martin had double-doubles for Notre Dame while

Kyle Kuric and freshman Chane Behanan did the same for

Louisville.

Notre Dame has taken all three of its overtime games this

season, including a 57-53 win over South Florida in Thursday’s

quarterfinals. Eric Atkins scored all six of his points in the

extra session.

“I tried to be confident all throughout the game,” Atkins said.

“I really didn’t hit anything all game, though.”

The Cardinals, who won the Big East tournament title in 2009,

are seeking their third appearance in the championship game. They

are brimming with confidence after forcing a season-high 26

turnovers in Thursday’s 84-71 upset of No. 9 Marquette.

“We had a lot of great wins, but this was good for us to get

back to playing the way we wanted with pressing and running and

just pushing the pace,” coach Rick Pitino said.

The coach knows it won’t be easy to force miscues against a

Fighting Irish team that ranks among the nation’s least

mistake-prone, averaging 10.0 turnovers.

“If Notre Dame wants to slow it down, they will, because they

have excellent ballhandlers, they’re excellent passers, and we have

to learn to play both ways, and we have this season,” Pitino

said.

Louisville junior guard Peyton Siva was a non-factor the first

time these teams met with eight points – his total over his two

contests prior to this tournament. He’s averaging 16.0 in his last

two games.

“Going into this tournament we were hoping he would turn it

around, and he is, and we had a long talk,” Pitino said. “I used

the analogy of the New York Giants – nobody remembers the regular

season anymore when they went into the playoffs, just matters what

you do in the postseason.”

The winner will face second-ranked Syracuse or Cincinnati in

Saturday’s title game.