Get ready for it.
I’m going to lead with a trope scribes oft invoke at such euphoric moments.
The last time a University of Louisville basketball team won in South Bend, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were newlyweds, the Jennifer Anniston “Rachel” was the hairstyle du jour, Kenneth Starr was sitting behind the desk now used by Robert Mueller, “You know what they call a quarter pounder in Paris?” was the question being asked, Kenny G had the biggest holiday album on the charts, Rick Pitino was wearing a blue tie and David Padgett was nine years old.
On a night when Clemson remained ofer Chapel Hill, Louisville’s ascending Cardinals broke another streak. Days after ending Florida State’s long home winning skein, the Cards beat the Fighting Irish on their home court for the first time since 1994.
Of course, it took an overtime. Then another. That’s what happens when these two meet on the hardwood.
It took overcoming a double digit disadvantage in the 2d.
On a night when it surrendered an unfathomable 26 offensive rebounds, U of L again persevered. In front of a raucous crowd, the Cards stayed the course, never panicked and won 82-78.
On the final possession of regulation, the Cards D held firm, causing a missed layup, then another, then a third. After giving up yet another offensive board, Darius Perry forced the Irish’s Matt Farrell to miss an awkward trey.
At the end of OT#1, after Ray Spalding knotted the tilt, U of L’s defensive intensity came up big again, causing Farrell to air ball another attempted three.
The Cards were composed, eerily so, in OT#2, scoring on their first three possessions.
Anas Mahmoud tallied on a feed from Quentin Snider. Spalding scored with an assist from Ryan McMahon. Then Q splashed a three from the corner.
Despite its rebounding woes, the Cardinals essentially swept the defensive glass in the final five. The only second chance Notre Dame got came when Deng Adel, busting his hump for a loose ball, inadvertently kicked the rock out of bounds. But the U of L defense held. Q nailed two more FTs.
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There was much to like, not the least of which is that the recently beleaguered Cards now sit second in the ACC at 4-1.
Because — here’s another of those things we hear too often — they made more FTs than the Irish attempted. U of L was 15/17, while the home team, with one of the biggest home court advantages in the sport, was 7/11.
I’ve done the math for you. That’s +8.
U of L didn’t falter at the charity stripe for the last 23:25 of the battle.
Louisville’s defense forced 18 turnovers, almost double ND’s average.
How about Jordan Nwora, whose most recent stat lines read DNP. Deftly inserted into the mix by David Padgett because ND was playing zone, and is not too swift afoot? The rookie scored six and picked the Irish’s pocket twice.
How about Anas Mahmoud, who controlled matters in the paint at crunch time. Of his game, Fran Fraschilla said, “It’s the best four point, six rebound game you’ll ever see?” Because his four blocks were major.
How about Deng Adel, who didn’t force a thing and hustled all night?
How about Darius Perry, who shut down ND’s leader when it mattered?
As for Q, cue the Seger. He was like a rock. 7 assists. 6/6 at the line and all were important. The makes at the end to seal it. The 1+1 after Pflueger’s 5th foul to pull within 1 with 6:52 to go in regulation. And a couple more a minute or so later to keep the Cardinals within a deuce.
Ryan McMahon did what Ryan McMahon does. He hit three threes, which had TD Jesus wincing.
And, yes, there was Ray Spalding. 23 ponts on 10/16 marksmanship. 3/3 at the line. 12 boards including 5 offensive. 2 steals. 2 assists. Mic drop.
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Love love loved how Louisville steadied and retrenched in the 1st. Down 10 with 5:07 before the break, the Cards scored 14 in a row.
After he stole the ball, Spalding tipped in a Deng Adel miss. +1. 19-26.
After a Nwora pilfer, Adel from beyond the arc. 22-26. Which DA followed with a slam on a feed from Q. 24-26.
Fast break lay up Nwora. 26 all.
Another second chance put back by Ray. 28-26. Followed by another defensive stop and a Q deuce. 30-26.
Game on, ya little leprechaun.
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David Padgett continues to mature as a coach before our eyes. His substitution schemes are astute. His game plan included emphasis on not fouling, in order to keep the Irish off the charity stripe. The Cards committed only 12.
The Cardinals’ interim mentor was ready for the moment. Before the second extra period, he was laughing on the sideline after joking with Mike Brey about the U of L/ Notre Dame OT fetish.
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So, yeah, the Cards still have plenty to work on. Like, uh, blocking out.
But . . . but . . . but . . . this team is developing a personality. An engaging and winning one at that.
The victorious performance against a depleted Notre Dame team in South Bend, after a score of years plus of waiting, was less than perfect, but oh so gritty and satisfying.
— Seedy K