Comeback Cards beat Irish in OT; UConn next

Louisville overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to beat Notre Dame, 83-77, in overtime Friday night in the Big East tourney semifinals. The third-seed Cardinals will face ninth-seed UConn Saturday in the Big East Tournament championship game.

Trailing by 14 at the half, Rick Pitino had one directive for his team in the final 20 minutes of Friday's Big East Tournament semifinal against Notre Dame: Turn up the heat defensively.

That's exactly what Louisville did in the second half to rally back for an, 83-77, overtime victory over the No. 2-seeded Irish to advance to Saturday's championship game against ninth-seed UConn.

"I'm real proud of our effort tonight because we didn't play good basketball, especially in the first half," Pitino said. "We came out of our zone too early, went to man to man and they picked us apart.

"In the second half, I said 'you guys get one shot at winning this game, you've got to take their legs out from under them and it will pay off at the end but you've got to do it without fouling in the full court.'..All of the guys did a great job, we were in serious foul trouble, we weren't playing good basketball and we overcame all of that to get a victory."

Preston Knowles played the final ten minutes of regulation and overtime with four fouls, and led Louisville with 20 points, including the Cardinals last eight points in regulation.

"Preston was absolutely dead," said Pitino. "He had nothing left, he was out of gas...And he came through at the end and made big-time shots and played great defense."

But the reason why Louisville overcame the Irish was defense. Notre Dame shot the lights out in the first half, connecting on 57 percent of their shots while taking a 42-30 advantage at the break. The Irish connected on five first half three's, three by forward Scott Martin, and appeared on their way to their first appearance in the Big East Tournament championship game.

Louisville overcame Notre Dame in overtime Friday night to advance to the Big East championship game on Saturday. (Getty)
Knowles and Louisville had other ideas. The Cardinals turned up the heat defensively in the second half, holding the Irish without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. Notre Dame made only 6 of 22 shots in the second half, and made just 2 of 6 attempts in overtime. Louisville held Notre Dame's leading scorer Ben Hansbrough to 3 of 16 shooting and 13 points.

Hansbrough's three-pointer with 6:37 remaining pushed Notre Dame's lead back to eight, 66-58. Louisville scored the next seven points, though, to close the margin to 66-65 with 2:47.

Louisville took their first lead of the second half at 70-68 on Knowles' follow of his own miss with 1:37 left. Martin got behind Louisville's full court pressure a few seconds later to tie the score at 70. Knowles then hit a jumpshot to give Louisville a 72-70 lead with :57 seconds. Carlton Scott tied the score with :45 seconds left.

Knowles' missed a jumper with :30 seconds remaining, giving Notre Dame one final chance to win. But Hanbrough's jumper missed the mark and Tim Abromaitis's tip shot didn't find the mark.

Louisville scored first in overtime on Kuric's layup. Hansbrough answered with a three to give Notre Dame a 75-74 lead. Knowles made two free throws with 3:57 left to give Louisville the lead for good. Louisville out-scored Notre Dame 7-2 in the final minutes, connecting on 5-6 free throws to secure the win.

Peyton Siva finished with 15 points and seven assists before fouling out late in regulation. Terrence Jennings pitched in 16 points, five rebounds and blocked three shots, while Kyle Kuric contributed 14 points.

Scott Martin led Notre Dame with 21 points.

Now, Louisville has one last obstacle standing in the way of their second Big East championship - Kemba Walker and UConn. Walker has scored 111 points in four Big East Tournament games this week - a scoring record. Walker had 33 points in the Huskies overtime win over Syracuse Friday night.

Post-Game Notebook

* Louisville advances to the BIG EAST Championship final for the second time with tonight's win. The Cardinals last reached the final in 2009, when Louisville defeated Syracuse 76-66 to win its first BIG EAST title.

* Louisville will face Connecticut in Saturday's BIG EAST final. The Cardinals and Huskies have never met in the BIG EAST Championship. Louisville won both regular-season meetings between the schools.

* This year's tournament is the first BIG EAST Championship to have both semifinals decided in overtime.

* Tonight's game was the 27th overtime game in BIG EAST Championship history.

* Louisville trailed 46-32 at halftime tonight, making the 14-point comeback the third-largest halftime deficit overcome in the BIG EAST Championship. USF trailed by 16 before defeating Villanova 70-69 Tuesday, while Syracuse trailed by 15 before beating Georgetown 58-57 in 2006.

* Preston Knowles scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in the final 2:47 of regulation and the overtime period.

* Louisville had BIG EAST Championship team highs in points (83) and rebounds (49). The 77 points allowed were the most by a Cardinal opponent in a BIG EAST tournament game.

* Louisville had two fewer offensive rebounds (23) than Notre Dame had defensive rebounds (25).

* Notre Dame shot 56.7 percent from the field in the first half and 27.3 percent in the second half.

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