For the first time in over a month, Notre Dame was not the team struggling to shoot the ball.
The Irish (13-10, 4-7) snapped a seven-game losing streak against the team that started it exactly a month earlier with a 90-57 win over Louisville.
The win was the largest any Notre Dame team has had since joining the Big East. Not only does the win over the seventh-ranked Cardinals (18-5, 9-2) give the Irish their first win since a Jan. 10 victory at home over Seton Hall, it gives the Irish hope that the season may in fact not be lost.
"I think to say we needed that would be the understatement of the year," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said.
Notre Dame will get a chance to start a winning streak on Sunday when it hosts South Florida (8-15, 3-8) before a couple of tough road games at West Virginia (16-8, 5-6) and at Providence (15-9, 7-5).
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said that he believes the Irish have the ability to turn it around and get to the NCAA Tournament."A few years ago we had to win eight out of 10 games and our guys dug in like Notre Dame dug in," Pitino said. "These guys are terrific young men and I hope they rally the same way we did two years ago."
There is no doubt that the Irish will have a chance to get back into the Tournament mix if they shoot like they did on Thursday. Poor shooting was one of the big reasons behind Notre Dame's recent slide, but not on Thursday.
As good as the offense was, it all started for the Irish on the defensive end. Notre Dame held Louisville to seven of 30 (23.3%) from the field in the first half, limiting the Cardinals to just 19 points.
Notre Dame held Louisville's Terrence Williams to just five points in the game. Earl Clark was the high man for the Cardinals with 11, followed by the only other double-digit scorer, Samardo Samuels with 10.
"Coming out on the defensive end, we forced them into some quick shots and one-and-dones, that helped us out a lot," said Harangody. "We kind of got into a good flow right as the game started."
That defense, coupled with cold shooting from Louisville allowed the Irish to grab an early 17-4 lead. The Cardinals, who came into the game with an average of 73 points and a 43.3 field goal percentage, missed their first six shots and 14 of their first 15.
Meanwhile the Irish, led by Harangody and McAlarney, made nine of their first 16 shots. Harangody and McAlarney combined to score Notre Dame's first 13 points and McAlarney delivered a beautiful feed to Luke Zeller for a dunk that put the Irish up double-figures eight minutes in.
McAlarney then knocked down a jumper to give Notre Dame a 17-4 lead. Louisville's press helped the Cardinals to a 7-2 spurt that made the score 19-11, but a Harangody turnaround and an Ayers three-pointer boosted Notre Dame's advantage to 24-11 with 7:30 left in the half.
After a hoop by Clark and a three-pointer by Preston Knowles cut the Notre Dame lead to eight, the Irish closed the half on a 13-3 run that gave them a 37-19 advantage at intermission.
Harangody finished the half with 13 points and 10 rebounds while McAlarney and Ayers each added eight points.
Clark and Jerry Smith were the high scorers for Louisville in the first half with just four apiece.
The Irish shot a sizzling 48.3% from the floor in the first half and were even hotter in the second half, making 21 of their 36 attempts to finish with a field goal percentage of 53.8% for the game.
Samuels scored the first bucket of the second half for Louisville, but the Irish maintained a 20-point lead for most of the first part of the second half before a 10-0 Notre Dame run. The Irish spurt included an Ayers three-pointer between a pair of McAlarney bombs, the second of which included a free throw after a foul to give the Irish a 68-38 lead.
Notre Dame took its largest lead of the game, 81-46, when Ayers accidentally tipped in a pass from Harangody with under five minutes to go.