Notre Dame will test Louisville's zone

Thursday's Louisville-Notre Dame bash in Freedom Hall figures to be a three-point battle. While Louisville defends the three-point line better than almost anyone in the Big East, Notre Dame counters as one of the most dangerous long-range shooting teams in the nation.

Thursday's Louisville-Notre Dame bash in Freedom Hall figures to be a three-point battle. While Louisville defends the three-point line better than almost anyone in the Big East, Notre Dame counters as one of the most dangerous long-range shooting teams in the nation.

Therein lies the key to game.

Notre Dame, one of the most dangerous three-point shooting teams in the nation, figures to challenge Louisville's zone like no one else this season. The Irish rank seventh in the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage (.409) and senior guard Kyle McAlarney has made 90 of 194 three-point field goal attempts this season, an impressive 46 percent.


David Padgett and Louisville should be able
to pound the Irish on the boards.

Louisville, meanwhile, has proven one of the best teams in defending against the deep ball. The Cardinals have allowed their opponents to make just 30 percent from the three-point line this season, third-best in the Big East. In their win at Pittsburgh last weekend, Louisville limited the Panthers to 28 percent shooting from behind the line.

The big question: Can Louisville's 2-3 zone slow down the Irish's three-point attack or will Notre Dame carve up the Cardinals from deep like they did Syracuse's last weekend?

"I think they're zone is the most active. They have got length and athletic ability and they bounce around in it and they're able to keep fresh bodies in it," Notre Dame's Mike Brey said. "Syracuse doesn't have enough bodies so they kind of rest in it sometime. Louisville can rotate fresh, athletic guys who can still bounce around and be active in it."

Notre Dame got good practice against the zone Saturday in their 94-87 win over Syracuse. The Irish torched Syracuse's zone from outside, making 14-25 three's. McAlarney did the most damage against Syracuse, hitting 9 of 11 three's against the Orange. Overall, the Irish shot 54.7 percent (29 of 53) against Syracuse.

"I think it is good that's a consistent preparation," Brey said. "We've got to be aware of pressure and work against that a little the next two days. We're not going to reinvent the wheel how we play against the zone. We'll watch some tape of how we played against them here last year."

What he'll find in that review is that Notre Dame had no problem handling Louisville's full court pressure. The Irish knocked off the Cardinals 78-62 at the Joyce Center last January and committed only nine turnovers in the contest.

"What we did last year is we broke the pressure to score and that got us going a little bit and we were successful," Brey said.

While Louisville figures to have their hands full trying to defend against the Irish three-point shooting attack, Notre Dame has big concerns on the backboards.

Though Notre Dame knocked off Syracuse, the Orange exposed a vulnerable spot in the Irish armor, pounding Notre Dame on the boards. Syracuse out-rebounded Notre Dame 51-33 and hauled down 24 offensive rebounds, resulting in 22 second chance points. That concerns Brey because Louisville completely dominated Syracuse last week on the boards, out-boarding the Orange by 18 in Freedom Hall.

"We have to do a better job, and have in the past, of getting in there and blocking out and going and getting it," Brey said. "So that's a concern going to Thursday because they get on the offensive board as well as anybody in the league."


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