The atmosphere in Madison Square Garden has always been kind to Louisville. Tonight, as tip-off neared, you could sense another grueling, fight to the finish Big East clash. The Cardinals and Fighting Irish didn’t disappoint. Coming out strong in the first half, Louisville knocked down some early threes and played aggressive defense. The counter screens the Irish used were some-what slowed down the full court press against the Cards, but they weren’t enough as Louisville took a 7 point advantage over Notre Dame into the locker room.
In the second half, Notre Dame began its march back into the game early in the second half, closing into within 1 possession at one point. One of the major story lines of the second half occurred when Cardinals guard Kevin Ware drove to the left side of the rim and planted awkwardly on his foot, appearing to cause an ankle injury, which Ware later returned from. The outstanding play of Peyton Siva would make up for it, charging his team ahead and breaking away from the lurking Irish defense. Siva finished with 12 points, 6 assists and 7 steals. A spot the Notre Dame team did tremendous in was rebounding. The constant hustle of players like Jack Cooley(14 pts, 6 rbs, 2 ast) and Pat Connaughtton(9 pts, 8 rbs, 2 ast) kept the Irish ball in play, which resulted in many second chance points for ND.
As the end grew nearer, the physical play for both squads increased tremendously. Bodies constantly diving on the hardwood for the ball, desperate for any advantage they could find. Momentum swinging each way. For every bucket scored, it appeared the opposite team had an answer. Around 3 minutes left, Louisville had mounted an 11 point lead, which at that point began to settle into the half court offense to drain the clock. As the final buzzer sounded, the UL bench was captivated, knowing they would survive another night and have a shot to capture the Big East championship against Syracuse on Saturday night. While on the other side, Mike Brey knew he has to prepare his team for a run into March. Louisville will face off against the Syracuse Orange on Saturday night for a chance to grab a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The game will be at 8:30 pm ET and will be shown on ESPN!
Other game notes:
*Peyton Siva is now UofL’s all time leader in career steals. He passed Darrell Griffith in tonight’s game!
*Russ Smith is now the single season leader for made free throws in UofL history.