Louisville Cardinals (12-3, 3-1) At Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-5, 1-3)
Game Time: 2:05 p.m.
Location: Purcell Pavilion at Joyce Center: Notre Dame, Ind.
Announcers: Doug Sherman (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst)
Favorite: Louisville by 3
Officials: Lee Cassell, A.J. Desai, Pat Driscoll
Series: Louisville leads 24-15
Last Meeting: Louisville won 75-63 on March 13, 2019 in the ACC tournament second round in Charlotte
Probable Starting Lineups:
About Notre Dame:
For a third straight year, Mike Brey is coaching a Notre Dame team that is fighting to not have its season completely derailed by injuries. The Irish figure to have just seven scholarship players available when they host Louisville Saturday afternoon at the Joyce Center. The good news for them is that the seven players are pretty talented.
Outside of a 21-point loss to Maryland, Notre Dame has had a chance to win every game its played. They’re coming off 73-68 loss at NC State where they led for nearly the entirety of the game, but faded later after star John Mooney fouled out before the final TV timeout.
Mooney, a Third Team All-ACC selection a year ago, remains one of the most productive players in the entire country. He led the conference in double-doubles last season with 21, and it’ll be a shock if he doesn’t repeat that feat in 2019-20. Mooney has recorded double-doubles in nine consecutive games and 12 of Notre Dame’s 14 contests overall (tied for the most in D-I). His rebounding average of 13.6 boards per game is the highest in the country. Mooney is currently the only player in Division-I averaging 15-plus points and 13-plus rebounds per game.
Louisville defenders will also need to have eyes on Notre Dame guard Prentiss Hubb, who comes into Saturday red hot. The 6’3 sophomore scored 22 points and dished out nine assists in the team’s win at Syracuse, and then followed that up with a 24-point performance against NC State. The lefty went a combined 10-of-19 from behind the three-point line in those games, a place where he’s shooting 38.6 percent for the season. Hubb always seems to be at his best when things get a little bit testy with an opposing guard, so the U ofL backcourt will need to resist the urge to provide him with any additional fire.
Hubb’s backcourt mate is 6’3 senior TJ Gibbs (formerly Temple Gibbs), who is the team’s best on-ball defender and three-point shooter (40.0 percent). He has scored 14 or more points in six of Notre Dame’s last seven games, and doesn’t typically leave the floor unless he’s in foul trouble.
Speaking of foul trouble, it’s rarely an issue for this razor thin Notre Dame team. Mike Brey teams always do three things well: Avoid fouling, share the ball well, and don’t turn the ball over much. All of those things are true again in 2019-20.
The Fighting Irish commit an average of just 11.9 fouls per game, the lowest amount in the country. They also lead the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.85 and rank third in the country in the least amount of turnovers committed per game (9.9). The good news for Louisville in all of this is that the Cardinals do not thrive on forcing turnovers or on getting to the free-throw line for that matter.
With senior Rex Pflueger once again sidelined with a knee injury, there’s additional pressure on sophomore guard Dane Goodwin (11.3 ppg) and the frontcourt duo of Juwan Durham (8.2 ppg/6.3 rpg) and Nate Laszewski (7.4 ppg/5.3 rpg) to up their production. Durham is more of a true inside player while Laszewski came to South Bend billed as a knockdown outside shooter but has struggled with the deep ball at times this season. U of L has had a bit of an issue with perimeter defense in recent weeks and can’t afford to let a guy like him get going.
Defensively, Notre Dame has been forced to go mostly zone because of its lack of depth. They struggle with defending the three-point shot, and although Mooney is the best rebounder in the country, the Fighting Irish as a team have struggled with limiting second chance opportunities. Both of those issues have been more apparent late in games when their legs have gotten a little tired. This is another game where Dwayne Sutton should be able to have himself a day.
—Nine of the last 22 games in this series have been decided in overtime. Four of those nine games have included multiple overtimes.
—From 1994 through 2013 Notre Dame and Louisville met 13 times and seven of those contests went to overtime. Louisville won four of those seven contests, but the Irish claimed three of the last four, including the epic 104-101 five overtime victory in Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 8, 2013.
—Notre Dame’s John Mooney leads the nation in rebounds per game with a 13.6 average. His 12 double-doubles are tied for the most in Division-I.
—Jordan Nwora’s 313 points scored this year are the most by a Louisville player through 15 games over the last 20 seasons. He leads the ACC in scoring at 20.9 ppg good for 19th in the nation.
—Louisville has a 49-16 record in its conference home games over the last eight years.
—Louisville enters Saturday ranked eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.365), 20th in scoring margin (+14.3), 22nd in rebound margin (+7.7) and 28th in scoring defense (61.0).
—Notre Dame leads the country in least amount of fouls committed per game (11.9) and in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.85.
—Louisville has a 15-9 record all-time in games played on Jan. 11, winning nine of its last 10 on that date.
—Louisville blocked a season-high six shots in the win over Miami, and has now blocked at least one shot in 318 consecutive games.
—Louisville is 5-9 all-time in games played at Notre Dame. The Cardinals snapped a seven-game road losing streak to the Fighting Irish with a double overtime win back in 2018.
—Louisville assistant coach Mike Pegues played for Notre Dame coach Mike Brey at Delaware (1996- 2000). Pegues scored 2,030 career points during his time with the Blue Hens.
—Notre Dame is third in the country in least amount of turnovers committed per game (9.9).
—John Mooney’s nine consecutive double-doubles are two short of tying Luke Harangody’s school record of 11 consecutive.
—Louisville is 12-0 this season when leading at halftime, and 0-3 when trailing at the break.
—Louisville has a 37-13 record during the month of January over the last five years.
—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 152 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 68, Notre Dame 64