March 04, 2015
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Eight days off gave No. 12 Notre Dame plenty of time to address several areas and recharge, and the only concern was whether the Fighting Irish might be rusty against No. 16 Louisville.
The Irish took care of that by erasing a 6-0 deficit with a 10-0 run, setting the tone for a night of strong offensive confidence that paid off big down the stretch in a hostile environment where they’ve often struggled.
Demetrius Jackson scored 21 points and Notre Dame made its final seven shots to pull away for a 71-59 victory over Louisville Wednesday night to clinch third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
”I’m really proud of my team to come in this atmosphere and beat an NCAA tournament team,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose team won for just the second time in 10 visits to Louisville.
”I was a little concerned how sharp we’d be – we hadn’t played in eight days. I thought we responded great.”
Jackson’s 3-pointer with 7:52 left gave the Irish a 53-48 lead. He then added consecutive jumpers to twice provide nine-point cushions that sealed the victory for the Fighting Irish (25-5, 13-4 ACC).
He also had plenty of help from other teammates such as Bonzie Colson, who made a big jumper down the stretch en route to 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting.
Jerian Grant added 12 points and Steve Vasturia 10 as Notre Dame finished 54 percent from the field and made 20 of 25 from the free-throw line in winning for the fourth time in five games.
”Everybody just went for it,” said Jackson, who made 6 of 11 from the field and all seven free throws. ”Guys stepped up and made big plays. Steve stepped up and made big shots. Bonzie was like a tight end catching those long balls. Guys just did a great job.”
Montrezl Harrell had 23 points for the Cardinals (23-7, 11-6), but missed several free throws as they tried to rally. Louisville finished 11 of 18 from the line in having its three-game winning streak snapped.
The Irish also made the Cardinals force shots and finished 42 percent from the field after they opened the second half with an 11-0 run that tied the game.
”It was as if we thought we were Notre Dame the way we were running our offense,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ”It was very disappointing in terms of us quick shooting, taking ill-advised shots and our breakdowns defensively.”
That last part definitely hurt Louisville against Notre Dame’s balanced offense led by Grant (16.9 points per game) and five starters averaging at least nine points per game.
Though the Cardinals held Irish forwards Pat Connaughton and Zach Auguste to seven points and nine rebounds combined, they couldn’t stop Jackson, Grant or Vasturia when it mattered.
Wayne Blackshear and Terry Rozier each had 11 for the Cardinals, who didn’t have enough offense to keep up with an Irish squad whose 50.8 shooting rate ranked second nationally.
At times, Louisville also struggled to hang with Notre Dame’s movement in a fast-paced game that resembled their old days as Big East rivals.
The Irish started 11 of 15 from the field including four 3-pointers, en route to shooting 58 percent and leading 42-31 at halftime. Grant’s fadeaway jumper at the buzzer punctuated their aggressive play.
The Cardinals regrouped with an 11-0 run over 3:23 to tie the game thanks to tighter pressure on the Irish. Notre Dame shook it off to eventually go ahead to stay thanks to Jackson and others’ clutch shooting.
Notre Dame didn’t arrive in Louisville until 1 a.m. Wednesday because its original plane had mechanical issues. A replacement plane was flown up from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to make the 30-minute trip south.
Notre Dame: The Irish finished with their best conference road record ever (7-2)
Louisville: The 42 first-half points allowed were a season high for the Cardinals. … Louisville outscored Notre Dame 34-20 in the paint, but was outscored 21-2 by the Irish’s bench.
Notre Dame hosts Clemson on Saturday.