Preview: No. 12 ND @ No. 16 Louisville

A victory by Notre Dame in Louisville would be the second by the Irish in the last three trips to the Yum! Center. The Cardinals have lost twice at home this season – to Duke by 11 and to North Carolina State by nine.

• Game 30: No. 12 Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4) @ No. 16 Louisville (23-6, 11-5)
• Place: KFC Yum! Center; Louisville, Ky.
• Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN2
• Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
• Location: Louisville, Ky.
• Nickname: Cardinals
• 2013-14 record: 31-6 (15-3 in ACC)

Louisville Head Coach
Rick Pitino (14th year at Louisville) -- Career record: 717-251 in 29th year as head coach (2-4 in one season at Hawaii; 91-51 in four years at Boston U.; 42-23 in two years at Providence; 219-50 in eight years at Kentucky; 363-123 in 14 years at Louisville).

Pitino, 62, has taken seven teams to the Final Four: one at Providence, three at Kentucky and three at Louisville. He’s also taken two other Kentucky teams and two other Louisville teams to the Elite Eight.

Pitino won the national championship at Kentucky in 1995-96 and at Louisville in 2012-13. His 1996-97 Kentucky team finished runner-up. The 1992-93 Kentucky squad and his 2004-05 and 2011-12 Louisville teams participated in the Final Four.

Eight of Pitino’s squads have won at least 30 games in a season.

Louisville Scouting Report
The last couple weeks have been emotional ones for the Cardinals with the dismissal of third-leading scorer Chris Jones and the adjustments made in his absence.

A 7.0 scorer a year ago, 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore Terry Rozier has exploded onto the scene for the Cardinals, averaging 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s scored at least 20 points in seven of 16 ACC games, including huge performances against North Carolina (22 points, 10 rebounds in one game; 25 points in another) and Pittsburgh (26 points in one game; 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10-of-10 from the FT line in another). Rozier is second on the team in three-pointers with 44 (.331).

Leading the physical presence up front is 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior Montrezl Harrell, who’s averaging 15.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Harrell has 91 offensive rebounds and 36 blocked shots. He can be ferocious attacking the glass, snagging from 12-to-15 rebounds in five of the last 10 games. He had 28 points and 12 rebounds against Pittsburgh, and another 21 and 14 versus Miami.

Harrell’s scoring outputs have been reflected in the won-loss column. His rebounding is consistently in the nine-per-game range, regardless of the outcome. But he’s averaging 16.0 points per game in Louisville’s 11 ACC wins and 10.6 in the Cardinals’ five conference losses.

Harrell gets help up front from 6-foot-10, 230-pound freshman Chinanu Onuaku and 6-foot-10, 220-pound sophomore Mangok Mathiang. Harrell, Onuaku and Mathiang have combined for 113 blocked shots. On the offensive glass, they’ve combined for 215 rebounds.

In addition to Harrell, the veteran of the group is 6-foot-5, 215-pound senior Wayne Blackshear, who averages 10.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while pacing the Cardinals in three-pointers with 46 (.326).

Anton Gill, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore, made all five of his shots from the field (and all four from three-point range) for 14 points the last time out (vs. Florida State) after scoring just four points in the previous seven games combined.

Louisville-Notre Dame Preview
The Cardinals’ longest ACC winning streak this year in four games, and they have a chance to put together their second four-game streak in conference play with a victory over visiting Notre Dame, which already has set a school conference record with six road wins in eight tries.

Louisville has a real challenge on its hands as it concludes its regular season with home games against Notre Dame and Virginia. The Cardinals have been streaky this year. After losing to Duke at home by 11 and scoring just 52 points, Louisville won four in a row, and then proceeded to lose three of the next four, including a nine-point loss at home against mercurial North Carolina State.

Then the Chris Jones stuff came to the surface, and the Cardinals have won three in a row – the first against Miami, Jones’ last game, as he tossed in 17 points. Louisville struggled at Georgia Tech, but recovered from a 13-point deficit with under 10 minutes remaining to win, 52-51, and then hammered Florida State in Tallahassee.

This is a tough matchup for the Irish with the recent play up front of Harrell and Onuaku. Mathiang is capable of altering a game underneath as well, particularly against a team that can struggle on the backboards like the Irish, although he’s played a minor role in recent games.

Louisville generally doesn’t shoot it well (43.1 percent from the field, 30.9 percent from three), and its 11.8 assists per game is surpassed by 70 percent of the teams in the country.

Then again, this is the Yum! Center, and if the Cardinals get things rolling early, the crowd will help carry the momentum, and suddenly it becomes a very difficult place to play against Rick Pitino’s frantic-paced attack.

Notre Dame needs to shoot well on the road, which it’s done in most of its eight ACC road games. But if Harrell gets on a roll, Blackshear shoots well, Rozier goes on one of his scoring runs, and the other big men help Harrell up front, the Irish will have to regroup and try to close on a high note at home against Clemson.

It’s been eight days since the Irish last played, and for just the fifth time this year, Notre Dame faces the possibility of losing two games in a row. At this stage of the season, when Pitino’s teams usually start to peak, odds are more in favor of the home team than the pointspread indicates.

This Notre Dame team is far from done, even with a loss. But this task may be a tad too tall at this point of the season in the Yum! Center.

• Pointspread: Louisville by 4½  
• Irish Illustrated Prediction: Louisville 69, Notre Dame 63
• Season record: 20-9 straight up; 11-10 vs. points


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