What’s the difference between being unconscious and being asleep?
No. 3 Louisville (19-0) spelled it out during its stunning 100-67 win versus No. 2 Notre Dame (15-2) on Thursday night at the KFC Yum Center in front of an audience of 12,614. Box score.
The Cardinals finished an unconscious 65.1 percent (41 of 63) from the field while the Fighting Irish, after opening the game with two threes for a 6-2 lead, were virtually in a trance the entire evening and often asleep on the defensive end of the floor.
Louisville All-American guard Asia Durr scored 36 points on 13-of-18 shooting, including an 8-of-10 effort from beyond the arc, and former ACC Player of the Year Myisha Hines-Allen had a career-high-tying 31 points while converting 15 of 20 from the floor. Their combined 67 points on 28-of-38 shooting tied Notre Dame’s point total.
Louisville led 33-16 at the end of the first quarter while shooting 77.8 percent (14 of 18) from the field. At halftime, the Cardinals were up 56-28 while converting 71.9 percent. By the end of the third quarter it was 85-46, and the Cardinals extended the lead to 44 points in the fourth.
It was the first time a team reached the century mark against the Fighting Irish since a 106-81 victory by No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 8, 1998.
For Louisville, it ended an 11-game losing streak to the Irish and marked the first time it ever defeated a top-five team at home in 11 tries.
Sophomore Jackie Young paced the Irish with 23 points on 10-of-21 shooting, while junior Marina Mabrey had 14, highlighted by 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Junior Jessica Shepard added 12 points and a team-high six assists.
The Irish host Boston College on Sunday and return to the ESPN stage next Thursday versus No. 6 Tennessee, which fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 79-76 loss to Texas A&M, also on Thursday night.
1. One Of Those Nights
Miami was not truly 41-8 better than Notre Dame in football this season, and the Fighting Irish were not really 49-14 better than USC. There are generational days that occur, though, where you say, “How in the blank did that happen?” This was one of them. A Final-Four caliber Louisville team was smelling blood to end an 11-game losing streak to Notre Dame and were “in the zone.” Meanwhile, on this night the Irish uncharacteristically flinched. They were fortunate to escape with a few other wins this year, but this time the energy tank hit empty.
There might be another loss, maybe even two, that could occur. Nevertheless, this Irish squad is capable of remaining a No. 1 or No. 2 seed if it can stay healthy hereafter. Look for a much better representation if the two teams meet again in the ACC Tournament.
2. Playing As You Practice?
Head coach Muffet McGraw has admitted that with four players out because of torn ACLs, a broken nose by Young, and ankle problems that have slowed Shepard and senior Kathryn Westbeld, practices can’t be as intense now and tape study is emphasized more.
The drawback of this is coaches like to say, “you play like you practice.” If there is some tentativeness about practicing with aggression and intensity, there could be carryover into games — and it has been manifested especially on defense (man or zone). Foul trouble is a concern with a thin bench, and that too might help create less aggression. It’s a fine line the Irish coaching staff is walking this year.
3. Pressure Point
Mabrey has regained her terrific shooting stroke the past couple of weeks, including at Louisville, and she merits plaudits with her efforts at point guard with the top two there in the preseason both shelved. Because Mabrey isn’t a natural at the point or ultra quick, opponents are looking to extend their defense more to take her out of her comfort level and disrupt the entire flow of the half-court offense.
More ball screens up top might be needed to counter this strategy. Using the quickness of Young and Arike Ogunbowale there some on drives or drive-and-kick plays will continue to be looked at as well.