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Notre Dame Basketball

WBB | ND Back on Top … But for How Long?

January 9, 2019

Notre Dame moved back to the top of both weekly polls this week after previously undefeated UConn lost on the road at Baylor.  The Huskies loss leaves only two undefeated teams in the AP Top 25 this week — Louisville (14-0) now ranked #2 and NC State (15-0) #8

The new rankings mean that Purcell Pavilion will host a second #1 vs. #2 matchup this season as the Irish host Louisville on Thursday night (ESPN at 7:00 pm eastern).  The Cardinals beat Notre Dame twice last season —a 100-67 thumping in the regular season and a 74-72 win in the ACC Championship game.

In the first matchup, Louisville played a near flawless offensive game as they started hot and stayed that way.  The Cardinals shot just under 74% in the first quarter in racing to a 33-16 lead and followed that by making 9 of 13 field goals (69%) in the second quarter to take a commanding 56—28 lead at the half.  By the end of the game, Louisville’s two stars — Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen — scored 36 (13 for 18 from the field including 8-10 from three) and 31 (15 for 20) respectively.  Hines-Allen added 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 3 assists.

The ACC Championship final was closer. ND took a two-point lead into half-time, but the Irish were outscored 20-13 to trail by five heading into the final quarter.  ND pulled to within one twice in the final minutes but were never able to gain the lead as the Cardinals went 7 for 7 from the line to seal the win.

Hines-Allen has graduated, but Durr is back for her senior season.  The first team All American and defending ACC Player of the Year is currently averaging 20.9 points per game.  She’s shooting 45.1% from the field, 33.3% from three and 85.9% from the free throw line.  She’s joined by a strong supporting cast including three other McDonald’s All Americans (MDAA), who see considerable action.

Sam Fuehring, a 6’3” senior forward and MDAA, is second on the team in scoring at 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.  She makes just under 57% of her field goal attempts and connects on 81.4% of her free throws.  Fuehring made a critical three-point play in the game’s final 30 seconds to extend the Cardinals’ lead to four in the ACC Championship game.

Dana Evans, a 5’6” sophomore guard and MDAA, averages 10.6 points and 4.2 assists per game.  Her A/TO ratio is 2.2.  She makes 86.4% of her free throws and 48.1% of her field goal attempts.  She’s been credited with 29 steals — 2.1 per game.

Arika Carter, a 5’8” senior guard, adds 10.1 points per game.  She’s made 50% of her three-point shots this year.

Jazmine Jones, who put intense defensive pressure on the ball in last year’s games with the Irish, averages 8.1 points per game.  She’s a 6’ junior guard.

Kylee Shook, a 6’4” junior forward and MDAA, averages 7.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 18 minutes per game.

Bionca Dunham, a 6’2” junior forward, is averaging 8.1 points per game.  She’s shooting just under 60% from the field.

Even without Hines-Allen, Louisville has stepped up its offensive output so far this season.  The Cardinals are averaging 83.9 points per game vs. 76.7 last season.  Their field goal percentage has increased slightly from 48.2% to 49.4%.  They’re making an average of 7.6 three-point shots per game this season vs. 6.2, and they’re making an average of four more free throws per game.

Louisville’s scoring has been off a bit in the last three games — 72-68 on the road at Central Michigan, 73-66 vs. North Carolina at home, and a 73-51 victory against Duke on the road.  The Cardinals were cold from beyond the arc in the first two games — just 9 for 45 — but rebounded to make 12 of 24 three-pointers against the Blue Demons.

Notre Dame and Louisville both leap-frogged Connecticut in this week’s polls to set up the season’s second #1 vs. #2 match-up at Purcell.

Irish Notes:

Some around the country are questioning ND’s return to the top spot in both the coaches’ and AP polls ahead of UConn after losing to the Huskies by 18 points in early December.  However, Notre Dame was already sitting at #1 in the RPI before this past weekend with a schedule rated the toughest in the country.  

The Irish have four wins against the AP #25 so far this season — #10 Oregon State, #14 Gonzaga, #15 Marquette and #17 Iowa to help offset the loss to UConn.  And, after this week’s game vs. #2 Louisville, ND still has games remaining against #8 NC State, #12 Syracuse, #13 Tennessee, and #23 Florida State.  The games against the Wolfpack and Orange are both on the road.  In addition, Miami sits at 23 in the coaches’ poll this week.

UConn is currently 2-1 against the AP top 25 with wins vs. ND and #24 California and the loss vs. Baylor this past weekend.  The Huskies only have two games left vs. ranked opponents — on the road at Louisville later this month and a home contest against #23 South Carolina.

UConn is unlikely to get much of a challenge in its conference.  Only Central Florida is in the top 25 of the RPI (23) and they are currently unranked in the polls.  Only one other AAC team, Tulane, is in the top 100 of the RPI at 69.  Counting UConn, only 3 of the AAC’s 12 teams are in the top 100 of the RPI.  By contrast, ND is at the top of 14 ACC teams (out of 15) in the top 100 of the RPI.

Because of the overall weakness of the AAC, the Huskies generally play a very challenging non-conference schedule.  However, a number of teams they’ve played are having down years including Ohio State (161) and Purdue (71) from the Big Ten, Vanderbilt (169) and Mississippi (235) from the SEC, DePaul (48), St. Johns (64) and Seton Hall (104) from the Big East, and Oklahoma (112) from the Big 12.  The numbers in parentheses after each team listed is their current RPI rating.  

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