Notre Dame won comfortably in its first matchup with Louisville. That was Jan. 4, the second game of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
A lot has happened since.
Following their loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday, the No. 8 Cardinals fell a game behind the 19th-ranked Irish in the ACC standings with one game remaining.
Notre Dame beat the Cardinals, ranked No. 9 at the time, 77-70 at Purcell Pavilion. It was Notre Dame’s defense that lifted it to victory, holding the high-powered Louisville attack to 39.1-percent shooting.
Louisville rebounded from that loss to win seven of its next eight games. Notre Dame won its next three games to improve to 5-0 in the ACC, its best start in program history. Then came a four-game losing skid, followed by the current six-game winning streak.
While Louisville has a more impressive NCAA Tournament résumé — boasting wins over Purdue, Kentucky and Duke — the Irish still have a chance at a share of the ACC regular-season title.
With a win Saturday at the 22,090-seat KFC Yum! Center and a Duke win over North Carolina later that night, the Irish would tie the Tar Heels at 13-5 in the league.
“We’re going into it thinking that we’re playing for a conference championship,” senior wing V.J. Beachem said. “Hopefully we can get some help from Duke Saturday night, but really just comes down to us doing our job.
“Going out there and trying to get a win on Saturday and then whatever happens on Saturday night happens. We’ve got to let it rip and go play with nothing to lose.”
The Irish are well positioned for the postseason, though the double bye in the ACC Tournament is not yet secured. Notre Dame can finish as high as second in the league and as low as fifth. If Notre Dame loses to Louisville, Duke beats North Carolina and Florida State defeats Miami, the Irish will be the No. 5 seed.
Head coach Mike Brey joked after Wednesday’s win over Boston College that he couldn’t even remember the previous matchup with Louisville and that it almost feels like last season.
It’s the same season, with a lot on the line.
“It’s going to be a big game,” junior forward Bonzie Colson said, “and we kind of strive in those moments.”
Notre Dame (23-7, 12-5 ACC) at Louisville (23-7, 11-6 ACC)
Louisville, Ky. — KFC Yum! Center
Saturday, 2 p.m.