The Cardinals out-fought the Fighting Irish at the end of regulation, holding them without a field goal the final six minutes and 57 seconds, and forcing overtime. Then they dominated Notre Dame in the extra session, finishing with a 14-0 flourish to win 87-73 in front of 19,865 fans at Freedom Hall.
"This was, by far, the best (we've played)," senior forward Terrence Williams said. "You see a team that lost three games early, a lot of people were down on us, that came down and executed like that offensively."
T-Will gave himself an "eight out of 10" for his sparkling play - 24 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and three steals - that led No. 20 Louisville (12-3) and helped offset a 28-point, 13-rebound effort by the reigning Big East Conference Player of the Year, Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody. The 6-foot-8 junior came in second nationally in rebounding (12.7 per game) and fourth in scoring (24.5 points per game).
"The game that T-Will had was a Superman-type game," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "(And) Andre McGee and Preston Knowles provided so much pressure on defense that they couldn't run their offense."
McGee and Knowles played lock-down defense at the end of regulation as UofL held 12th-ranked Notre Dame (12 -4) scoreless over the final 5:34.
The Irish missed their final six shots of regulation, hit their first shot in overtime, then missed their final seven of the game.
"I think you have to give their defense the credit," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "They really defended...They kept really contesting and getting after us. It was hard to get anything in transition." "You could tell (their guards) didn't want the ball," added junior forward Earl Clark, who contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Clark's three with 4:04 left in overtime gave the Cards a lead they wouldn't lose. UofL went 5-for-7 from the field, and 5-for-5 from the foul line, in OT. This game was eerily similar to last year's, won 90-85 by UofL in spite of 40 points and 12 rebounds by Harangody.
The Cards established Samardo Samuels inside early and used a 9-0 run (with four points from Samuels) to take a 17-8 lead eight minutes into the game.
But the Irish answered with a 14-4 spurt, including six from Harangody in that span, to take a 22-21 lead. The two teams went back and forth the rest of the half.
UofL led 41-38 at halftime behind 15 points from T- Will and in spite of 46.9 percent shooting - including 6 of 9 from three (66.7 percent) - by the Irish.
Kyle McAlarney tied the game with a three on Notre Dame's first possession of the second half. And it went back and forth again.
A 7-0 run by the Cards gave them a 64-57 lead with 11:23 to play, but Notre Dame rallied back to to take a 71-67 lead with 5:35 remaining. UofL scored the next four points.
Both teams had a chance to win at the end of regulation.
After a miss by Clark, Notre Dame had possession with 24 seconds to play. But after a timeout Irish point guard Tory Jackson drove, then turned and try to kick it out. The ball was deflected at went past midcourt. Harangody touched the ball in the backcourt with 0.8 seconds remaining to negate a spectacular T-Will dunk that sparked celebration - and many thought the end of the game.
"I think we had to get organized because their defense was really tough," Brey said. "It was hard to get entries, and it was even harder to feed the post...
"My feeling was we have to take our chances, to see if (Jackson) can drive it and see if he can get a hand- check or see if he got a kickout. I think we had an open guy, but they made a great play on a deflection. And thankfully, Harangody made a heck of a play chasing that ball down."
UofL had a shot, but Will Scott's turnaround three- pointer wasn't close.
The overtime, though, was all Louisville.
Clark's three was followed by a three-point play by Samuels, who finished with 18 points. Samuels was in foul trouble part of the night, but he was replaced very ably by fellow freshman Terrence Jennings, who had two points, six rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes.
After Samuels' old-fashioned three-point play gave Louisville a 79-73 lead, T-Will followed with a drive and double-clutch basket, then McGee sandwiched four free throws around a Clark turnaround.
Notre Dame, which came in leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.99) and second in fewest turnovers per game (9.4), had 15 errors and 15 assists, while Louisville had 21 assists and just nine miscues.
"That was as good a college basketball game as you'll see, there was tremendous play by so many people on both sides," Pitino said. "They've got a great team and we're evolving into a really terrific basketball team. I am really excited about the way our guys played."
The Cards will see if they can keep that momentum going Saturday night when they host No. 1 Pittsburgh at 6 p.m.