The Cardinals capped off an unbeaten month with a thrilling 90-85 win over 17th-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in front of 19,881 fans at Freedom Hall.
It was the eighth straight win for UofL and its 13th in a row in February dating back to last season.
"For whatever reason our team has been playing its best basketball in February," senior center David Padgett said. "But now we're going to try and keep that going into March, because that's the most important time."
by the flu.
The Cards (23-6, 13-3), who are No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, enter March tied with Georgetown (23-4, 13-3) for first place in the Big East Conference standings.
"They're playing the best of anyone in our league right now," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "I don't know who's better in the country right now than them."
Padgett scored a season-high 26 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists to lead Louisville, which had five players reach double figures in scoring. Terrence Williams and Earl Clark added 14 points apiece while Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee chipped in with 10 points each.
"I think it's beautiful basketball the way we're playing right now," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "The last two games we have played great half-court offensive basketball."
The Cards' balance helped offset a career game by Big East Player of the Year frontrunner Luke Harangody. Harangody, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, scored a career-high 40 points, including 12 of his team's first 14, and also hit the first three three-pointers of his career, including one falling into the Notre Dame bench in the final minute as the Fighting Irish tried to rally.
But Notre Dame (21-6, 11-4) couldn't overcome a sizzling start by the Cards in a matchup between the top scoring team in the Big East (the Fighting Irish entered averaging 80.8 points per game) and the second-best scoring defense (the Cards came in yielding 60.5 ppg).
UofL hit six of its first eight shots. McGee's jumper gave UofL a 14-4 lead before the first TV timeout.
"You think you're going to go on a 100 to zero run when everything starts clicking like that," McGee said.
And just when it seemed the Cards couldn't miss, they did. But then they were there to collect the misfire. Derrick Caracter's rebound basket gave Louisville its largest lead, at 34-16, in the first half.
The Fighting Irish cut that lead to 12 (34-22), but an 8-2 run - on a pair of threes by Williams and an inside hoop by Padgett - returned Louisville's lead back to 18 (42-24). UofL led 42-27 at halftime.
T-Will and Padgett led Louisville with eight points apiece in the first half as UofL shot 54.8 percent from the field (17-for-31) and made 7 of 12 three-pointers (58.3 percent).
"I thought I'd take away the inside game early and make them shoot from the outside, but then we got burned from behind the arc," Brey said. "We were playing out of a hole the rest of the game."
Harangody paced Notre Dame with 14 points as the Fighting Irish shot just 33.3 percent (12 of 36) from the field, and hit just 1 of 9 three-point tries (11.1 percent).
The Irish fought back several times in the second half and finished with a flurry of three-point shots, but they couldn't overcome the Cards. T-Will had a couple of exclamation point dunks in the final minute despite the fact that he was battling the flu.
"He called us at 6 in the morning, we got him to the doctor, got him a shot, an IV...most players would not have played," Pitino said.
The Cards hit four free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win.
Reserve Ryan Ayers added 17 points, making 5 of 6 threes, for the Fighting Irish. But Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney, who had 30 points and made nine three-pointers in the Fighting Irish's last game, had just seven points and was only 1 of 8 from three-point range. He came into the game boasting the best three-point percentage (46.4) in the Big East and also leading the conference in made threes per game (3.46).
"Obviously there was an APB on him ever since Sunday and they did a great job of taking him away," Brey said.
Louisville, which has secured a bye in the Big East Conference Tournament, plays its final home game of the season versus Villanova at 4 p.m. Sunday. The Cards close out their regular season at Georgetown on March 8.
"Now we've got two games to win a championship," Pitino said.
BROHM SHOOTS & SCORES
UofL quarterback Brian Brohm participated in a halftime shootout. When he was asked about the recent NFL combine in Indianapolis, Brohm responded: "It's a grueling four days, but I did pretty well."