Hoops Preview: Notre Dame At Louisville
NOTRE DAME (23-7, 12-5) at LOUISVILLE (23-7, 11-6)
Where: Louisville, Ky., KFC Yum! Center
Rankings: Notre Dame is ranked 19th; Louisville is ranked 8th.
Time/TV: 2 p.m./CBS, Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Clark Kellogg (analyst)
Matchup History: Saturday is the 36th all-time meeting between Notre Dame and Louisville. The Cardinals own a 20-15 advantage in the series.
“Obviously they’re a well-coached team and they’re a really good team. They’re definitely going to be ready to go considering what happened here earlier this season. We’ve got to be ready to go from the tip and just play our game with absolutely nothing to lose.” — Notre Dame senior wing V.J. Beachem on the rematch with Louisville
“A lot of times you can pinpoint certain things and say, ‘This is why we lost.’ We lost tonight because they were the better basketball team.” — Louisville head coach Rick Pitino after losing to unranked Wake Forest on Wednesday
Irish Trounce Boston College: Notre Dame had no trouble beating last-place Boston College on Wednesday, picking up an 82-66 victory on Senior Night at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish got 22 points from Beachem in his final home game and another stellar performance from junior forward Bonzie Colson. The 6-foot-5 Colson had 18 points and 11 rebounds, his ACC-leading 18th double-double of the season. Colson enters the last game of the regular season averaging 10.6 rebounds per game, best in the league and 11th nationally. Notre Dame is on a six-game winning streak entering Saturday’s game.
Last Meeting: Notre Dame defeated Louisville 77-70 on Jan. 4 at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish beat the ninth-ranked Cardinals with stingy defense, holding Louisville to 39.1 percent shooting and a career-high 24 points by senior guard Steve Vasturia. Junior guard Matt Farrell matched his career-high with 22 points and Colson added 18 points and 14 rebounds. Senior forward Austin Torres provided spark off the bench, scoring six points and adding two blocks.
Overtime History: Notre Dame-Louisville matchups have gone into overtime nine times in the 35 meetings. The Irish have picked up wins in three of the four most recent overtime games in the series.
A Lot On The Line: Notre Dame can finish as high as first and as low as fifth in the ACC entering the final day of league play. If Notre Dame beats Louisville and Duke defeats North Carolina, the Irish would tie North Carolina for first-place in the standings and get the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament. But if the Irish lose, Duke beats North Carolina and Florida State defeats Miami, the Irish would be the five-seed.
Louisville Spotlight: Though Louisville lost its last game on the road at Wake Forest, the Cardinals are still one of the nation’s premier defensive teams. Pitino’s team — the 18th-tallest team in the country — is rated seventh in defensive efficiency and seventh in block percentage (15.5). Notre Dame had success in the first matchup with the Cardinals by driving to the basket and challenging Louisville’s shot blockers. The Irish shot 22-of-25 from the free-throw line in the win and four Louisville players finished with four fouls.
Efficient Offense: Since the Irish went to a smaller lineup — inserting a fourth-guard into the starting lineup against Wake Forest — they’ve averaged 1.15 points per possession over the six-game winning streak. For the season, Louisville averages 1.10 points per possession, 34th in the country.
Matchup To Watch: Louisville graduated its three leading scorers from 2015-16 in Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, and Chinanu Onuaku. That production has been replaced by star sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell (15.8 ppg), whose standout season has put him in the running for ACC Player of the Year. Mitchell had 20 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds against the Irish in the first matchup, but was inefficient in doing his scoring. He was 7-of-20 from the field and 2-of-10 from 3. Notre Dame will counter with Farrell at point guard, and his defensive performance will be key in the Irish hopes of pulling an upset.
Projected Notre Dame Starters:
35 Bonzie Colson (6-5, 225, Jr.) – 16.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg
3 V.J. Beachem (6-8, 201, Sr.) – 15.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
5 Matt Farrell (6-1, 178, Jr.) – 14.3 ppg, 5.4 apg
32 Steve Vasturia (6-6, 212, Sr.) – 13.6 ppg, 3.4 apg
0 Rex Pflueger (6-6, 202, So.) – 4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg
2 T.J. Gibbs (6-3, 200, Fr.) – 5.1 ppg, 2.0 apg
4 Matt Ryan (6-7, 228, So.) – 3.5 ppg, 0.9 rpg
1 Austin Torres (6-7, 241, Sr.) – 1.6 ppg, 1.6 rpg
23 Martinas Geben (6-10, 255, Jr.) – 3.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Projected Louisville Starters:
4 Quentin Snider (6-2, 175, Jr.) – 12.5 ppg, 4.0 apg
10 Jaylen Johnson (6-9, 230, Jr.) – 8.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg
12 Mangok Mathiang (6-10, 230, Sr.) – 6.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg
22 Deng Adel (6-7, 200, So.) – 11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg
45 Donovan Mitchell (6-3, 200, So.) – 15.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg
0 V.J. King (6-6, 190, Fr.) – 6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg
14 Anas Mahmoud (7-0, 215, Jr.) – 5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Louisville 82, Notre Dame 77