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Notre Dame-Louisville Preview

NOTRE DAME VS. LOUISVILLE
Where: Purcell Pavilion (9,149), at Notre Dame
Rankings & Records: No. 25 Notre Dame (18-5, 6-3 Big East), No. 11/12 Louisville (19-4, 7-3).
Time/TV: Today at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Radio: UND.com, Sirius/XM channel 85.
Last Meeting: This is the 30th game between the two programs, with the Cardinals holding an 18-11 advantage in the all-time series. Louisville beat Notre Dame, 64-50, in the Big East Championship semifinals last season in New York City. The Irish won the lone regular-season contest last year, 67-65, in overtime at Louisville.

Jack Cooley and the Irish hope to topple 11th-ranked Louisville tonight at Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame Notes
The Irish, which host the ESPN GameDay crew today for just the second time in school history, won three straight games before slipping up against Syracuse in a 63-47 loss Monday at the Carrier Dome. Over the last three seasons, Notre Dame is 30-1 (10-0 this season) when shooting 50 percent or above from the field, 50-2 (13-0 this season) when outrebounding its opponent and 52-5 (15-1 this season) when leading at halftime. The Irish shot 34.6 percent from the field against the Orange, were outrebounded 32-28 and trailed 30-24 at the break.

Notre Dame is 5-1 in its last six games against top-10 competition. Notre Dame is shooting 48.7 percent from the floor this season, which ranks ninth nationally and leads the Big East. The Irish rank first in the league and 17th nationally in three-point percentage (.391). Notre Dame is shooting a league-high 39.8 percent from deep.

As head coach Mike Brey continues on this season with a “reinvented group,” he’s looking for more out of sophomore Pat Connaughton, better defensive rebounding from freshman reserve forward Zach Auguste and more made 3-pointers against a similar 2-3 zone that gave his team fits against Syracuse.

“The one thing you’ve got to deal with first, though, is the pressure — the ball pressure, and two is the small guards that get up under you and really pressure the ball in the backcourt,” Brey said. “That’s my first concern as we prepare for Louisville.

Once you get it across half court, then you’re dealing with their zone. … The first thing we need to do is make some shots. You don’t want to thoroughly overanalyze this thing. You’ve got to make some shots over the top of a 2-3 zone to be able to have success against a team that plays it a lot. I think you’ve got to make eight-plus 3s.”

Probable starters:

Jack CooleyWas named to the Big East weekly honor roll Monday for the third time this season after averaging 21.5 points and 16 rebounds in wins over Villanova and DePaul. The senior forward is tied for third nationally in double-doubles (15). He ranks fifth nationally in rebounds per game (11.3) and 11th in field-goal percentage (.584).

Eric Atkins Is third in the Big East (17th nationally) in assists per game (6.1) and is averaging 12.7 points.

Jerian GrantThe junior guard is fifth in the league with 5.6 assists per game. He has scored in double-figures in nine of 10 league games this season, including a current stretch of five straight double-digit efforts. He is averaging 13.4 points per game in conference play.

Pat Connaughton In his second year starting, the sophomore guard is posting 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Tom KnightBoosted his average to 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in Big East play and has started the last four games with sixth-year senior and co-captain Scott Martin sidelined with a knee injury.

Off The Bench
Freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid was named Big East Rookie of the Week Monday. Biedscheid came off the bench and netted a career-high 18 points against Villanova in a 65-60 win on Jan. 30. He was 5-for-7 from three-point range versus the Wildcats. In the 79-71 overtime victory at DePaul on Feb. 2, he connected on 3-of-8 shots from the field and finished with seven points. Freshman forward Zach Auguste is averaging 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per contest. He hasn’t collected a defensive board in his last 33 minutes on the floor.

Louisville Overview
Louisville has won three straight, including a 68-48 victory over Rutgers Wednesday. The Cardinals hassled Rutgers on both ends of the floor in the second half and outscored the Scarlet Knights 40-22. The Cardinals’ defense held Rutgers to just 25 percent from the field in the final period. Wayne Blackshear came off the bench and scored a game-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Veteran starting point guard Peyton Siva (senior) finished with nine points and seven assists.

Junior guard Russ Smith is averaging a team-best 18.2 ppg. Siva (10.6), sophomore forward Chane Behanan (10.4) and sophomore forward/guard Wayne Blackshear (9.6) round out the high Cardinals scorers. Junior center Gorgui Dieng leads the squad with 9.8 rebounds per contest.

Louisville ranks in the top-10 nationally in steals per game (6.3), turnover margin (+6.3), and eighth in scoring margin (+16.4). Louisville also has the 13th-best scoring defense in the country, limiting opponents to 57.2 points per game.

Outlook
Notre Dame and Louisville have alternated wins over the last seven games in the series, and the Cardinals are 0-3 at Notre Dame since joining the league. The last Louisville win in South Bend was an 85-82 overtime decision on Feb. 26, 1994. Notre Dame is 6-6 all-time at home against Louisville. The Irish are 3-1 in the last four meetings with a ranked Louisville squad.

Four of the last five Notre Dame-Louisville showdowns have gone to overtime and the teams have split down the middle. Two of those games have gone to double-overtime, including last season's 67-65 Irish victory in Louisville (Jan. 7, 2012). Five of the last seven Notre Dame-Louisville encounters have required a bonus period.

Morgan’s prediction: Notre Dame 66, Louisville 62

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