In a typical Louisville versus Notre Dame basketball game one knows they will see a back-and-forth affair with hard-nosed defense. The possibility of overtime (nine in the series) is always a possibility. Saturday’s game was no different, but it was Louisville who came out on top 71 – 64.
Donovan Mitchell once again led the Cardinals in scoring with 20 points, but it was senior Mangok Mathiang who was the offensive force for the Cardinals. Mathiang finished with a career-high 18 points. His 11 rebounds gave him his fourth career double-double. “I was really pleased with the way Mangok talked, the way Mangok switched, said Rick Pitino. “Mangok did things tonight and gave us a big lift. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds, I believe.”
U of L shot poorly in the first half, but played well enough to lead 30 – 27 at the half. The Cards made only 10 – 29 from the field in the first half, but they dominated the smaller Fighting Irish 22 – 15. The Cards finished with a 44 – 27 advantage on the boards for the game.
The second half saw the trio of Mitchell, Quentin Snider, and Deng Adel come up huge with big shots. Mitchell scored only seven in the first half, but finished strong by scoring 13 in the second half, including 7 – 8 of his free throws. Snider hit only one shot in the first half, but he showed up by scoring 15 of his 17 points in the second half. Snider hit four of his five 3-pointers.
For all of Mitchell’s, Mathiang’s, and Snider’s great play, no one shot was bigger than Adel’s to seal the victory for the Cards. After a Matt Farrell layup cut the Cards’ lead to 64 – 62 with 50 seconds left, Adel took a pass from Snider on the right wing and with Steve Vasturia challenging, nailed a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left.
With the win, Louisville closed out a great regular season with a 24 – 7 record. Given one of the toughest schedules in the country, no one could have predicted this type of season including Pitino. “I think our schedule this year has been a meat grinder, said Pitino. “It really has been and I think it’s helped us evolve. I was hoping that it would end this way. I was really hoping. I was hoping I didn’t bury them mentally or physically. I didn’t expect to have this type of record, I didn’t expect to be 24-7, I was hoping to be 22-9 or 21-10, something like that with this type of schedule, but they got through it, they did a great job and it’s made us a much better basketball team because of it.”
U of L got the double bye they were hoping for in the upcoming ACC tournament. They will open up ACC tournament play on Thursday in the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.