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Notre Dame Bows Out Of Big East

The Big East Conference era for Notre Dame men’s basketball ends without a regular-season or league tournament title. In their final crack at advancing to the conference finals, the Fighting Irish were guilty of too many miscues to overcome against the nation’s fourth-ranked team, losing to Louisville, 69-57, in Friday’s semifinals in New York.

Peyton Siva and the Cardinals were too much for the Irish, which exited the Big East Tournament the final time Friday.

Notre Dame, the sixth seed in the final Big East Championship before the longtime alliance splits up at the conclusion of this academic year, erased a seven-point deficit with six minutes to go in the first half on a 3-pointer by sophomore Pat Connaughton, who had been on fire from behind the arc all week, but the No. 2 seed Cardinals closed with a 10-3 run for a 32-25 halftime cushion.

Louisville maintained the lead throughout the second frame, aided by sloppy Irish possessions (16 turnovers in the game), and capitalized on second opportunities to move on to Saturday’s title game against fifth-seeded and 19th-ranked Syracuse. The Orange knocked off top-seeded and fifth-ranked Georgetown 58-55 in overtime earlier in the evening. It’s the third straight year the Cardinals sent Notre Dame packing in the league semis.

On a night that when senior forward Jack Cooley got back on track (co-team-high 14 points), No. 24 Notre Dame (25-9) didn’t have enough firepower to accompany its big man for a full 40 minutes in the team’s fourth straight semifinal appearance. And as the Irish struggled to shoot (36.5 percent), they fired rounds into their own feet.

Senior center Garrick Sherman scored in spurts en route to eight points, but committed five turnovers. Junior guard Jerian Grant matched Cooley’s 14 points, but his six giveaways proved extremely costly. Connaughton drained 3-of-6 triples for nine points, with a significant dropoff from the rest of the lineup after that. Senior point guard Eric Atkins, senior forward Tom Knight and freshmen forwards Cameron Biedscheid and Zach Auguste combined for 12 points on 5-of-21 shooting.

"I love that we fought back and had some chances, but just probably too many turnovers at key times," Irish coach Mike Brey said.

Louisville’s Russ Smith torched Notre Dame for 20 points on slicing drives and mid-range jumpers, and Peyton Siva added 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Both finished the night with six assists for the fourth-ranked Cardinals (28-5), which shot 45.5 percent from the floor and 7-of-14 from behind the arc to win their ninth consecutive game. Siva, last year’s Big East Championship MVP, also registered seven steals, which ties a single-game tournament record. Head coach Rick Pitino’s group outrebounded the Irish, 30-29.

So many times in Brey's 13 years at the helm he's talked about playing in the Garden on Saturday night. But for one final time, he's walking into the brisk New York City night without being able to enjoy that experience.

"I'm very disappointed we could never get to Saturday," he said. "I guess I got to say, 'Can we get to Sunday afternoon now in the new league?' or whatever. But I'm thrilled that we played in the semis in such a magical night here.

"So a little bit of unfinished business, but we'll get over it quickly and get ready to prepare for next week. ... I've always said I've been as proud of being a Big East guy as I am a Notre Dame guy. We'll miss that. I do like the fact that there's some of those people coming to this new league with us, but unbelievable memories of the league and especially this building."

An Atkins layup in transition cut Notre Dame’s deficit to 38-35 with 13:19 to play, but Louisville countered with a Luke Hancock 3-pointer and drives by Smith and Siva to push the lead back to eight points. The Irish missed the front end of a one-and-one, turned the ball over on consecutive possessions to fall further behind, 50-41, at the 6-minute mark.

Another Connaughton trey gave Notre Dame a temporary lift before the next three possessions ended with misses and a turnover. The Cardinals’ Chane Behanan got to the bucket, Hancock buried a 3-pointer and Smith connected on a jumper for a 13-point cushion and the knockout blow.

"Their pressure on the full court started us off going fast, and by the time we got settled in our offense, there wasn't a lot of time left on the clock," Cooley said. "Putting that pressure on it kind of helped to eliminate some of the post feeds we were getting the first two games. All their defense stems from their pressure."

  • I would concur with some of our board members that no one has played better basketball in this last month of the season than Louisville. Their full-court defense is relentless, the guards Silva and Smith are as quick and athletic as they come, Dieng gives them a superb presence in the middle and all the other pieces, like Hancock shooting the threes, complement the whole operation.

    Combine that with Pitino's history in March, including a Final Four last year, and I think they just might get the edge over Duke and Indiana to win it all.

    I was dreaming of some magical last hurrah, but in this case the talent was just overwhelming.

  • I agree, and see Louisville possibly going to another Final Four.

    So, Lou and Wes, with 2 BE tourney wins, where do the Irish end up seeded? Popular opinion had them as a 6 or 7 seed--is that still the case? I think a 6 seed is most likely at this point

  • I just want to start off saying that I think highly of this team and for the most part they played hard, smart and winning basketball.
    I guess I'm just tired of saying we got beat by a team that was more athletic than us. I know we have beaten "athletic" teams before, but for the most part they were young or inexperienced, or frankly not very good bb players.
    When is it our turn to get those semi-elite players that can give us the edge in games against top tier teams.
    I understand they are few and far between and even further away from considering ND. as a landing spot, but Digger once or twice a decade was able to do this and we were actual threats in the tourney, not just a space eater on a line.
    I'm not saying I am blaming this team for their performance. They went as far as their talent allowed and maybe farther, but I get the feeling Brey is satisfied being in the dance, and until he sets that bar higher, we are going to be one of 64 tourney teams watching the Final Four on TV every year.

  • It is an interesting year. I think the Big 10 is the sleeper league. Indiana is the best, though not dominating. Michigan and Wisconsin are very good and Michigan State is so physicaly strong that they could beat anybody.
    Duke is not strong enough to go all the way. They lost again last night to Maryland (twice in a row) who isn't a great team. Miami is the best team in the ACC, in my opinion. Syracuse and Georgtown can beat anybody on any night. Louisville is very athletic. I honestly think there are about 8 teams that have a legit shot at the Title and I honestly don't know how good Gonzaga is. This figures to be more interesting than any tourney in recent years.

  • Their backcourt is amazing (at least against us), and when Siva and Smith are shooting it well, there is no backcourt better including Michigan's.

  • I don't think anyone is sleeping on the B10, and no one would be suprised if they have two of the final four teams playing that last weekend.

  • Lou, I agree on Louisville being very live to get back to the Final Four. It was not unrealistic to think the Irish had a shot against them. They had already beaten them once, but Louisville is playing better ball right now. It would have taken a near flawless game to do it, and that's asking quite a bit. I've seen very few players who can disrupt a team's rhythm as effectively as Siva. I agree with Scott that their backcourt can stand up to anyone's. The Irish battled last night, and could have beaten quite a few good teams, but they're still a level away from those on the top rung of the ladder.

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    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • As I have said, Louisville has been playing the best basketball in the country for some time now. If not for Grant going off in the last minute in South Bend, they would be riding a 13 game winning streak playing in the toughest conference in America. I'd be surprised if they don't win it all. Even when their shots aren't falling, their pressure D will still give them a chance to win simply because they aren't going to play many teams in the tournament who have faced that kind of speed and pressure for 40 minutes.

    Four consecutive trips to the BE semifinals is nothing to sneeze at. Sad we could never get over hump in NYC. That blown 16 point lead to Louisville in the semis two years ago w/Hansbrough might haunt Brey for some time because looking back- that was our best shot to win this thing. Let's regroup, hope we get a 5 or 6 seed and maybe make a run at another Sweet 16.

    GO IRISH!!!

    This post was edited by simm 13 months ago

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    My luck w/the Irish 20-6...GO IRISH!!!

  • To quote Al McGuire, "they're faster than the 11:15 Mass at a summer resort."

    signature image

    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • Scottfan34,

    When independence still favored ND until the 1979 formation of the Big East, Digger recruited at least one top 20 player (McDonald's All-American today) or future NBA star every year from 1973-77: Adrian Dantley (1973), Dave Batton (1974) and Duck Williams in 1974, Bill Laimbeer in 1975, Rich Branning (Sport magazine Dream Team) plus Bill Hanzlik in 1976, and Kelly Tripucka, Tracy Jackson and Orlando Woolridge in 1977. If you want to be a top 10 program and Final Four contender, that's what you have to do. That's what the women have been basically doing every year since 2009, starting with Skylar, then McBride, now Jewell Loyd, and a top 5 for next year ... etc. There is also far less parity in women's basketball, and ND has developed into one of the "haves."

    Once the Big East and ESPN both formed in 1979, all the recruiting advantages Digger used to have (eastern pipeline, independence and a monopoly on weekend national television) were gradually severed. In his last 10 seasons, Digger won only five NCAA Tournament games. He was still getting top-rung talent like David Rivers in 1984, Keith Robinson in 1986 and LaPhonso Ellis in 1988, but it was more spread out. Frankly, Digger also became a victim of his own success the first 10 years and, in my humble opinion, became a little complacent. All he talked about in the 1970s was the Final Four and winning it all. By the 1980s, he defined making the NCAA Tournament as a successful season. Not faulting him, and I respect him, but just telling you how it unfolded.

    In the current climate of college basketball and the one-and-done drawing toward the NBA, that type of recruiting from the 1970s won't happen now, although a nucleus of Beidschied, Auguste and Jackson in coming years might seem like an upgrade right now on paper. It's just hard for this program to break out of that Sweet-16-Is-as-good-as-it-will-get-and-just-be-glad-to-make-the-tourney mold.

  • hemy

    Lou,

    Good analysis and perspective, especially as it relates to Digger, the
    rise of the Big East and the "demise" of ND's recruiting advantages.
    One problem I have is that a goodly group of ND alumni and fans
    centered in Rochester, New York were discussing in 1979, 1980
    that the rise of the Big East/ESPN would harm ND basketball and
    suggesting then that ND should hightail it to the Big East as fast
    as possible. Alas---the "administration" only saw the light
    fifteen years later when it was too late (circa 1995). To us, it
    was as plain as the proverbial nose on one's face that what you
    describe was going to happen and I don't think that we in Rochester
    had any special insight.

    One other comment---I was slightly disappointed this year in Biedscheid's
    play; I thought he would develop more consistency in his shot and become
    a sort of "slasher" that we have lacked. It didn't happen. Auguste was
    better but still, hoped he would challenge for a starting role, especially
    given Cooley's problems during the year. Finally, I know he did not
    want a red shirt but really, when he is a senior, we will probably rue
    Burgett's playing this year, especially given the fact that he was
    consigned more to a "mop up" role than anything.

  • This was about what i expected to happen in this game. We don't handle pressure well and got killed on the boards in first half. hopefully we can win a game or two in the tourney but i still dont have a good feeling about this team.

    Two time Poster of The Week, 2011 and 2013.

  • We don't have enough players that can create their own shot!! To be honest, are talent level is a not top 10 for sure!! We play hard but we just struggle to get any good looks against athletic teams!!! I believe that Brey is a great coach that can't recruit at a high level and as they say you are only as good as your players!!

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