The No. 3 Louisville Cardinals suffered its worst loss on the season in a 99 – 79 decision against the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the ACC Tournament Championship.
The Cardinals entered the match down one starter. Redshirt senior guard, Arica Carter, was benched for an injury. Louisville lost another starter as Sam Fuehring took a nasty spill early in the second quarter. Without Carter and Fuehring, the Cardinals were missing nearly 20 points of its offensive production. The two seniors fall at three and four on Louisville’s scoring list. The loss of Fuehring also limited Louisville’s rebounding effort. She is averaging 7.2 rebounds per game.
“Unfortunately, about found out about 20 minutes before tip A.C. was not going to be able to go, and Sam goes down with a sprained ankle,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said. “But still it’s the next one up. And we just — we just could not gain any ground on the defensive glass for us.”
Notre Dame was unstoppable in the paint. The Fighting Irish scored 72 of its 99 points in the paint. Notre Dame also controlled the boards, outrebounding Louisville, 44 – 29. The dominant performance on the glass led the Fighting Irish to pick up 28 easy second chance points.
In the first half, the Cardinals did not have a single offensive board. For a team that averages roughly 12 offensive rebounds per game, not having an offensive board or a single second chance point was a momentum killer.
Coach Jeff Walz tipped his hat to Notre Dame’s effort on the glass, “When you play somebody and they get more offensive rebounds than you get defensive rebounds, it’s not going to be a good day. And unfortunately for us that’s what took place.”
Louisville and Notre Dame were close at halftime with the Irish leading, 48 – 39. However, out of the half, Notre Dame locked in and dropped 25 points in the third frame. The Irish would take a 73 – 56 advantage into the final quarter.
With Carter and Fuehring sidelined and Notre Dame keeping Louisville’s leading scorer, Asia Durr, relatively quiet, the Cardinals could not bounce back.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals know the ACC Championship game is not the end.
“This wasn’t our final goal,” Durr said. “So I think we fought hard at certain times throughout the game. But this is not our final goal. So we just gotta learn from it and continue to push forward.”
Louisville looked to a pair of juniors to help on the offensive end of the court. Jazmine Jones and Bionca Dunham led the Cardinals in scoring. Dunham went 7 – of – 13 from the field for 18 points, while Jones added 17 points on 70% shooting. Durr was well below her 21.5 average, racking up 15 points. Durr also grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. Louisville saw 9 players tally points in the loss.
Dana Evans led the team in assists with 6, while she added 9 points.
While the loss likely won’t knock Louisville off the one seed line, the Cardinals have much to improve upon. And rest assured, they will improve.
Louisville will learn its tournament seeding in just over a week during the Selection Monday bracket show.