After taking down the Pittsburgh Panthers on New Years Eve in over time thanks to a clutch last second three pointer by senior captain Steve Vasturia, the #22/23 Notre Dame Fighting Irish opened ACC play 1-0 to start the New Year, but needed to turn their attention immediately to the #9 Louisville Cardinals.
Despite the Irish trailing in the all time series against the Cardinals, 14-20, Notre Dame has won the last five meetings against Rick Pintino’s squad with their last meeting being February 13th, 2016 in which the Irish won 71-66 at home.
The series between the Irish and the cardinals have been notorious for going into over time, with nine of the series’ 34 games going into over time. The most notable over time game between these two rivals was back in February of 2013, where the Irish and the Cardinals duked it out in five overtimes, before Notre Dame finally secured the win 104-101.
Louisville has been off to a hot start to the 2016-2017 season with their most notable wins coming from the then #15 Purdue Boilermakers (now ranked #20), #6 Kentucky Wildcats and #16 Indiana Hoosiers, while only losing to the now #2 team in the country Baylor Bears by three and the #12 Virginia Cavaliers.
Another tough matchup for Irish head coach Mike Brey and his squad that will not get any easier. Securing a win against the Cardinals, followed by another home win against the Clemson Tigers on Saturday before heading to Miami could give the Fighting Irish the momentum needed to tackle their three game road trip against prominent ACC opponents.
A close game from start to finish, the Irish built a 10 point lead in the first 10 minutes of the first half before the Cardinals went on a 5-0 run to bring it back within five.
The Irish would score one more basket before the Cardinals went on another run, this time an 8-0 run that pulled them ahead by one with just over seven minutes left in the half.
With the score at 28-27 for the Cardinals, Notre Dame would go on a 7-0 run themselves capped off by a Steve Vasturia three pointer.
Vasturia scored 12 of his total 24 points in the first half before ending the game with a total of six rebounds and shooting 60% from the field.
The Irish as a team shot 47.1% from the field, 42.9 % from beyond the arc and 77.8% from the charity stripe going into half time with a 42-37 lead over the Cardinals.
In the second half, with the game tied at 68 with two minutes left, Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell would make three free throws between them to put the Irish up 71-68.
VJ Beachem would then steal the ball, passing to Steve Vasturia who would make his contested jumper to give Notre Dame a five point lead with 22 seconds left.
After a missed three pointer by Louisville, the Cardinals would get their own rebound and be fouled by Notre Dame. Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud would make both free throws to bring his team within three.
However Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson would make their next two free throws each to seal the deal for Notre Dame 77-70.
With their sixth straight victory over the Cardinals, the Irish improved to 2-0 in ACC league play.
“To get to 2-0 in this league, feels like your 6-0 with what is going on around in this league, so we’re blessed to be 2-0 but we darn sure earned it with toughness” stated head coach Mike Brey.
Notre Dame was outstanding from the free throw line after a mediocre performance in Pittsburgh. The Irish went 22-25 (88%) after an outstaning second half showing in which they went 15 for 16.
The Fighting Irish shot 43.9% from the field, 41.7% from the three point line and out rebounded the Cardinals 38-35.
Bonzie Colson had a solid performance Wednesday night, recording another double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 14 boards while also blocking three shots.
Matt Farrell was active as usual on offence scoring 22 points, recording three rebounds and two assists.
With Farrell and Vasturia’s 20+ point games, Mike Brey had this to say about his two guards:
“I think I have the best guards in the country, they’re the toughest, no one will talk about it like that, those two guys are tough, they’re fearless, their basketball IQ is high; right now they are setting an unbelievable tone for us in league play”.
With only four minutes of playing time, Austin Torres was also solid scoring six points and blocking two shots.
“His stuff tonight was such a key” said Mike Brey “his energy scoring, flying around, he knows it’s gonna be a short burst, but man he’s a key for us and it was tonight”.
Notre Dame will host the Clemson Tigers on Saturday January 7th at 3 PM before going on a three game road trip that will include the Miami Hurricanes, #21 Virginia Tech Hokies, and #12 Florida State.