Irish, Wesley Extinguish Louisville’s Early Push, 82-70


Irish, Wesley Extinguish Louisville’s Early Push, 82-70
 

It’s a rare day when the Notre Dame men’s basketball team connects on 15 three-pointers in a game and comes out on the short end.

It’s an even rarer day when Louisville makes 9-of-13 of its three-point attempts in a half.

What looked like what might be a day of oddities reverted to form in the second half as the Irish – sparked by 17-2 run – overcame a torrid-shooting Cardinals for an 82-70 Saturday afternoon victory at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.

“We were due for one here,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey, whose squad won in Louisville for the first time since 2015.

“We had to weather them making nine in the first half, but that’s a little bit of our program offensively. I’m thinking to myself, ‘I don’t think they can do that the whole game.’ I said to our guys, ‘We’re going to have to score 80 to get out of there today with a win.’”

After allowing 45 first-half points and trailing by seven, the Irish (12-6, 5-2) out-scored the Cardinals 44-25 in the second half. Notre Dame shot 31-of-49 from the field (63.3 percent), including 15-of-23 (65.2 percent) from beyond the arc.

Notre Dame’s victory was its eighth in nine games. Louisville (11-8, 5-4) lost its fourth game in its last five.

Freshman Blake Wesley scored 22 points for Notre Dame, leading a second half charge that saw the Irish trailing by three with 9:44 remaining and leading by 12 just 3:37 later. Wesley’s back-to-back threes and a three-point play in a minute-and-a-half sparked the run from which Louisville would not recover.

“I think that’s a bit of his demeanor,” said Brey of Wesley’s slow start and blazing finish. “I got him out of there with three fouls and then I came back to him and that’s where he’s been very mature. Like, ‘Okay, it’s crunch time and I can really help our team.’ And he’s fearless.

“His two threes were big. The drives were big. His defense on their guards, and then we do a really good job of playing off him, too. Guys know to let him have the ball and have him do some stuff. That’s a maturity that’s beyond a freshman.”

Notre Dame’s Paul Atkinson Jr. and Dane Goodwin each scored 13 points. Prentiss Hubb was the fourth Irish player in double-figures with 12 points.

“That’s the first time we’ve had all seven guys playing well,” Brey said. “That’s our goal. I thought our defense was better, but the lighting strike sometimes helps your defense. It can be a little bit of a punch psychologically.”

Louisville was led by Marshall transfer Jarrod West, who came off the bench to score 14 points in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-4 from three-point range. But West was shut out in the second half. Louisville made just 1-of-8 three-pointers over the final 20 minutes.

The Irish won going away despite Louisville’s bench out-scoring Notre Dame’s, 34-15. The Irish had just one offensive rebound to Louisville’s eight.

Louisville shot to a 7-0 lead before the Irish ran off 13 straight points for a six-point advantage, led by Goodwin, who made his first four shots from the field for a quick 10 points. Wesley matched Goodwin’s 10 first-half points.

Louisville clamped down on Goodwin after his early flurry. He scored his ninth and 10th points of the game at the 10:13 mark of the first half. He didn’t score again until 6:07 remained. But with Wesley picking up the slack and Trey Wertz connecting on all three of his three-point attempts, Notre Dame pulled away from Louisville as the Cardinals made just 11 field goals in the second half.

Note Dame maintained a double-digit lead over the final six minutes with its largest advantage of 14 points.

Marshall transfer Jarrod West came off the bench for the Cardinals to score 11 points within a seven-minute first-half span. Louisville went on a 10-0 run to take a 40-31 lead and a 45-38 halftime advantage.

The Cardinals came into the game shooting just 31.3 percent from three-point range. Averaging seven made three-pointers per outing, Louisville had nine by halftime but just 10 for the game.

“We only gave up 25 points in the second half and they only scored one three in the second half,” Brey said. “We got our offense really flowing and clicking. We made 15 threes and they were great looks because we were passing and cutting.”

The Irish trailed by seven at halftime despite shooting a sizzling 65.2 percent (15-of-23) from the field as the Cardinals connected on a 69 percent clip from beyond the arc.

Turnovers hurt the Irish in the first half with three out of the gate and eight for the half. Notre Dame coughed it up just three times in the second half.

“When we have beaten Louisville, it’s always been an endorsement of our program,” Brey said. “We haven’t gotten many down here and I think our guys were really excited to play because they knew the atmosphere was going to be great.

“We played a little fast in the first half and we got the tempo under control the second half.”

The pace picks up for the Irish over the next couple weeks. They will host N.C. State Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion. Beginning with the Wolfpack, the Irish will play five games in 11 days with a makeup game against Duke squeezed in on Monday, Jan. 31.