No one would have predicted at the beginning of the college basketball season that this far into conference play, Notre Dame and Louisville would still be trying to find their identities.
And some wins.
But that’s where the Fighting Irish, who reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last spring, and Cardinals stand as they prepare to meet Saturday in South Bend, Ind., in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Between the two of them, they have one conference win. Notre Dame is 9-12 (1-9 ACC) and Louisville stands 2-18 (0-9), and the Irish needed overtime on Jan. 10 to beat an equally woeful Georgia Tech team that also has only one conference win.
Notre Dame has lost four games in a row since and was competitive against North Carolina State on Tuesday in an 85-82 loss, that on paper, it should have won.
Playing on the road against the Wolfpack, Notre Dame shot 51.9 percent for the game, including 42.9 percent from 3-point range, plus 81.0 percent from the foul line.
At the same time, Notre Dame held NC State to 41.2 percent shooting. And coach Mike Brey was dumbfounded after the game about how to get over that hump.
“We’re searching, man,” Brey said. “We competed and we gave ourselves a chance against a good team in a tough atmosphere. We’re going to play it out.”
Cormac Ryan scored 19 points and JJ Starling added 18 to lead the Irish, who had four starters score in double figures. Marcus Hammond and Dane Goodwin each had 11.
The Cardinals have bookended their two season wins with a pair of nine-game losing streaks.
That includes a 75-65 loss to Boston College on Wednesday night in which the Cardinals had a 48-45 lead with 11:46 remaining. Louisville, however, couldn’t hold on as the Eagles’ 3-point shooting proved to be the difference down the stretch.
Mike James and El Ellis combined to score the Cardinals’ first 15 points, and Louisville led by as many as 12 in the first half as they shot 60 percent from the floor and made 5 of 9 3-point tries. The Cardinals took a 35-29 lead into halftime.
Boston College rebounded in the second half, outscoring the Cardinals 46-30 behind 7-of-11 shooting from the 3-point line.
Louisville coach Kenny Payne lamented after the game that his team didn’t do more in the first half.
“I felt like we had a good grasp of the game and then the 12 should have been 18,” Payne said of the first-half lead. “But what happens is, if you don’t take advantage of those moments, you got to know that the other team on their home court is going to make a run. So we walk in the locker room instead of being up 18, we walk in there up six. And a lot of it was off our mistakes.”
–Field Level Media