Cards face struggling Notre Dame

Louisville (16-9, 7-5) returns home Wednesday night to face struggling Notre Dame after a two-game road stretch in New York. The Cardinals have won three of their last four games, including an upset of then third-ranked Syracuse on Sunday.

Louisville is back at home for a critical Big East contest against Notre Dame Wednesday night after a two-game stretch in New York.

Before Louisville hit the road last week to play St. John's and Syracuse, Rick Pitino had hoped for a split in New York. He got it, albeit the unconventional way. The Cardinals dropped their first game to St. John's 74-55, then came up with a huge upset Sunday over Syracuse 66-60, giving UofL a key signature win for their NCAA Tournament resume.

"It was an excellent win for us," Pitino said. "We were hoping for a split and we got it the unusual way. This is a tough conference.

Now, Pitino is looking for a strong finish from his team. With only six regular-season games remaining, Pitino figures his team needs to win four more games to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville will be favored in both games this week against the Irish and at DePaul this weekend – two league contests it can ill-afford a slip up.

Phil Wunderlich returns to lead Louisville.
"Every game is important when you're trying to win four out of six," Pitino said. "We jumped from 43 to 31 in the RPI after beating a great team on the road. Now, we've got three wins over Top 50 [RPI] teams. We've got to fight for an NCAA bid. It's going to happen a lot in this conference. We believe we're going to get there."

Notre Dame is also fighting for a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish are now 6-7 in league play after dropping games against Seton Hall and St. John's last week without preseason Big East POY Luke Harangody, who was sidelined with a knee injury. He's questionable for tonight's game against the Cardinals.

"They are a terrific shooting team and we have always had a tough time matching up with them," Pitino said. "They are the number one assist to turnover ratio team in the country. They're not just a good shooting team, they're good off the bounce. They have an experienced backcourt and four or five really terrific basketball players."

Harangody is a game-time decision according to Mike Brey. He suffered a bone bruise on his knee against Seton Hall and didn't play against St. John's on Sunday. Notre Dame lost both games without him in the lineup and Pitino says his team will prepare for both possibilities.

"My belief is he won't play, he'll play against Pittsburgh. I don't think he'll play because he hasn't practice," Pitino said. "Now if he practices [Tuesday] he'll play in the game."

Louisville also has an injury problem. Starting small forward Reginald Delk didn't play against Syracuse because of back spasms. Freshman Mike Marra saw his most extensive playing time this season against the Orange with Delk on the sidelines and responded with four three's in 29 minutes of play. Delk is expected back in the lineup against the Irish.

"He'll practice today, probably won't start tomorrow," Pitino said. "We got a big lift from Mike Marra. He made about five crucial defensive mistakes but he learned a lot from getting playing time."

GAME FACTS - Louisville (16-9, 7-5) vs. Notre Dame (17-9, 6-7)
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 17
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Site: Crum Court / Freedom Hall (18,865), Louisville, Ky. (UofL 682-140 all-time in Freedom Hall)
TV: ESPN2 will televise the game with John Saunders (play-by-play) and Fran Fraschilla (analyst)
Radio: WKRD (790 AM, 101.7 FM; joined in progress on WHAS / 840AM) with Paul Rogers (play-by-play) and Bob Valvano (analyst)
Series History: U of L leads 15-9 all-time (10-1 in Louisville, 4-5 in South Bend, 1-3 neutral)
Last Meeting: Notre Dame 90, U of L 57 (Feb. 12, 2009 in South Bend, Ind.)
Next U of L Game: Feb. 20 at DePaul, 2:00 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

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