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Notre Dame Basketball

Cardinal bin: Louisville further buries Notre Dame's season

February 23, 2021

The actual date of the epitaph is yet to be formalized.

Yet when this Notre Dame men's basketball season is buried, officially, the three-day stretch of February 20-23 will show when the Fighting Irish went from life-support-to-comatose-to-another-unfulfilling-end.

Pull the plug; this one's merely a formality.

Notre Dame fell, 69-57, Tuesday night at Louisville – barely 72 hours after it failed to hold down a 20-point, second-half lead in a come-from-ahead loss at Syracuse.

That the Fighting Irish (9-12, 6-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost another road game hardly is surprising; that they never led and likewise got flat-out mauled by a team in Louisville (12-5, 7-4) that missed its second-leading scorer was a slight shift from the norm.

It has been 73 days since Notre Dame won at Kentucky to even its mark at 2-2 – the last time it exited a gameday at .500. Though the Cardinals are not presently ranked in the Top 25, it has been more than three years – since the fall of 2017 – since the Irish last defeated a ranked opponent; they're closing in on 0-for-30.

Notre Dame got a combined 32 points from Juwan Durham and Prentiss Hubb; the rest of the squad combined for 25 points on seven-for-31 shooting from the floor.

“Well, you're not going to beat a team as talented as Louisville; as gifted as Louisville” without everybody in sync, said Irish coach Mike Brey. “We need all seven of them, playing well, to beat, well, really for us to beat anybody. Those seven have to be in a good rhythm. We had some guys that just didn't play well.

“I think, offensively that is, you've got to give Louisville credit. They (the Irish) couldn't really cut and move and take it off the dribble. We were left with kind of Prentiss Hubb as the only guy who could do it. When we get in that mode, we're kind of just grasping at straws.”

That phrase might as well be a snapshot, hung beneath the Golden Dome, of the Irish's season – if not their last several campaigns.

Louisville, which had last played at home at the first of this month due to COVID-19 outbreaks within the team, was coming off a 45-point loss Saturday at North Carolina.

It did not have its second-leading scorer, David Johnson, who had started all 16 games before tonight and averaged nearly 13 points a contest.

No worries.

The Cardinals led 11-4 in the opening moments, had out-rebounded the Irish 9-1 before the first media timeout and never saw their guests crawl closer than five points.

It took both teams nearly 90 seconds to break a scoreless-tie; Louisville then paced Notre Dame for the final 38-plus minutes.

Notre Dame got as close as 56-51 in the second half, but it never got any closer.

“When we made a little bit of a run in the second half, you know, we had a few open looks in transition that we're going to have to make to beat a Louisville,” Brey said. “We made those in Durham (N.C., 10 days ago in the team's last win, at Duke) to make it interesting. They are a great defensive team. Athletically guard you and take away stuff.

“It was hard for us to score against set defense. Some guys made threes to start the game that I didn't expect.”

The Cardinals got 18 points from Carlik Jones and 12 apiece from Jae'lyn Withers and Samuell Williamson.

Notre Dame must win its final three regular-season games to avoid its second losing season in three years.

The Irish travel Saturday to Boston College before they return home to face North Carolina State (March 3) and Florida State (March 6) in their final regularly scheduled contests before the ACC Tournament.


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