The 19th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish had their 6-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, falling to #8 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center 71 to 64.
BONZIE COLSON led the way for the Irish with 20 points, and VJ Beachem added 17 points and 8 rebounds. For Louisville, the trio of Donovan Mitchell (20 points), Mangok Mathiang (18 points, 11 rebounds), and Quentin Snider (17 points) paved the way for the Cardinals victory.
ND finished its regular season 23-8 (12-6 ACC), and Louisville moved to 24-7 (12-6 ACC). What did we learn from all this?
This Team Can Hang, Even When It Isn’t Shooting Very Well
With its small lineup and surplus of perimeter players, ND thrives in the shooting department, especially from the outside. But on Saturday, Louisville’s length bothered Irish shooters, as the team finished 7-of-25 from 3-point range and shot just 41% from the field overall.
No matter, as COLSON, Beachem, and the rest found ways to get to the bucket and score in the paint, keeping pace with a Louisville team that has every physical advantage you’d want over a team like ND, and who played phenomenal defense for 40 minutes.
The Irish were within 2 points with about 30 seconds remaining, so their ability to get some stops and continue to get buckets down the stretch was impressive considering the jumpers were not falling.
Notre Dame fans should be encouraged by this game, as the Irish’s ability to play step-for-step with a likely NCAA Tournament 2-seed on their home floor is nothing to be ashamed of right now.
We Just Saw The Downside of Going Small
Despite Notre Dame taking Louisville to the wire, the Irish were unsurprisingly unable to keep the Cardinals off the glass in this one. Louisville out-rebounded ND 44-27, collecting 16 offensive rebounds in the process.
ND actually did a pretty decent job of playing defense otherwise, but Louisville’s size was too much to contain on the boards, and that - along with ND’s inability to hit shots - was the difference in the game.
There’s not much that can be done about this, as adding Geben to the rotation only does so much and hurts the spacing of the offense. More likely, this kind of rebounding disadvantage is what ND fans need to accept as coming with the territory of a small lineup, and hope the team hits more shots than they did in this one to compensate.
Martinas Geben Proved He Can Contribute
Since Mike Brey went small with his lineup a few weeks ago, Martinas Geben has gotten very limited playing time and it seemed there wasn’t much of a place for him in the rotation.
Against Louisville, though, the Irish needed help down low, especially on defense and on the boards. Geben is far from a perfect big man, but he contributed 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist in 16 solid minutes of play, showing a nasty attitude while doing so.
If he can give ND that kind of performance every time, it will be huge for their NCAA Tournament chances, especially if the Irish end up playing another long, athletic team like Louisville. Shout out to the Bird Whisperer for coming on strong in a big road game.