Rob Kurz heads up court as Louisville guard Jerry Smith attempts to catch up during first half.

Irish Clobber Cardinals In Big East Opener

Jan. 3, 2007

Notre Dame Louisville Box Score

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Tory Jackson has adjusted quickly to his new role as Notre Dame’s full-time floor general.

The freshman point guard tied a career high with 14 points to help the 17th-ranked Irish beat Louisville 78-62 on Wednesday night. Jackson was thrown into the starting lineup after Kyle McAlarney was arrested on a marijuana possession charge last week and suspended indefinitely.

Jackson also had five rebounds and four assists in his second career start. He showed he might be capable of leading the Irish through the Big East schedule if necessary by playing well in the conference opener for both teams.

“What can we say about the young point guard we rushed in there,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “He’s a warrior, and I’m proud of him. This is a big maturing process for him.”

Jackson graded his performance harshly.

“A “C” just because I know I could do better,” he said. “I had four turnovers. I can do way better than that. I hate turnovers.”

Russell Carter scored 19 points, Luke Harangody had 15 points and Rob Kurz added 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists for Notre Dame (13-1). The Irish shot 47 percent from the field and forced 15 turnovers to improve to 11-0 at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame has won 12 straight games for the first time in nearly 33 years.

Terrence Williams led Louisville (10-5) with 18 points, but the Cardinals continued to struggle offensively. Louisville shot 42 percent from the field, slightly above its season average of 40 percent.

It was Louisville’s worst loss of the season, and it snapped a five-game winning streak for the Cardinals.

The Irish were ranked sixth in the nation with 89 points a game while Louisville was holding opponents to 63 points per contest. The Irish reached Louisville’s defensive average on a jumper by Luke Zeller with 12:47 left.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino was impressed.

“I’m surprised they’re not ranked higher because of the way they execute and shoot the basketball,” he said. “This was a very difficult Big East opener against a team that caliber. They’re a legitimate contender. They’re very good.”

Notre Dame led 20-18 before going on an 8-2 run. Kurz and Colin Falls made 3-pointers to help the Irish take a 28-20 lead with 7:39 left in the first half.

Notre Dame stretched it to 43-29 at halftime. The Irish shot 55 percent from the field and made five 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.

Even when the Irish made mistakes, they turned out well. Kurz missed everything on a layup attempt, but Carter caught it in midair with two hands and dunked it to give Notre Dame a 57-34 lead and force a Louisville timeout with 14:39 left.

The big lead let some people in the crowd feel comfortable enough to leave early and go watch the Sugar Bowl football game between LSU and Notre Dame. The basketball game’s start time was moved up to 6 p.m. EST to accommodate fans who wanted to watch the football game at 8 p.m. The arena, which was nearly filled at the start, was half empty at the final buzzer.

“They have a football game tonight, so this wasn’t a crowd that was going to scare the hell out of you,” Pitino said. “It was more Notre Dame’s talent and ability to execute than it was being away from home. It’s just their team, they’re very, very good. Some places you go, they’re hanging from the rafters and every play is difficult. That would be the case if they didn’t have a football game tonight.”