Sports

Irish and Cardinals collide in Top-25 action

Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Top-25 foes clash at the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday evening, as the 12th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish hit the road for the last time this season, taking on the 16th-ranked Louisville Cardinals in an ACC showdown.

Mike Brey's Irish have already secured a double-bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament as they sit in third-place in the conference standings at 12-4. Notre Dame hasn't played since a Feb. 24 matchup at home against Syracuse, a 65-60 loss to the Orange. The setback halted a three-game win streak for Notre Dame, which will conclude the regular season on Saturday against Clemson.

Rick Pitino's Cardinals have gone through some roster changes of late with the dismissal of guard Chris Jones, but the team has rallied with three straight victories to remain in the hunt for a double-bye of its own. Louisville is currently in fourth-place in the ACC and is coming off last Saturday's 81-59 rout of Florida State.

This marks the 33rd meeting between these two teams. The Cardinals hold a 20-12 advantage all-time and have won the last two meetings. These two played 13 times as members of the Big East Conference and last met in the 2013 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, a 69-57 Louisville victory.

Notre Dame just wasn't clicking on all cylinders in the loss to Syracuse. The team converted a season-low 17 field goals and finished with just 60 points on .347 shooting, the second-lowest mark on the year for the Irish. Bonzie Colson led the way offensively with 16 points. Pat Connaughton added a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Jerian Grant just missed his own, finishing with 13 points and nine assists. Zach Auguste added 10 points for Notre Dame, which received a mere eight points from the remainder of the roster in the loss.

The offensive numbers this season have been so much better for Notre Dame, which remains one of the nation's most efficient squads, averaging 79.1 ppg on an impressive .508 shooting. Grant is a strong candidate for ACC Player of the Year, as he ranks fifth in the conference in scoring (16.9 ppg) and first in assists (6.6 apg). Connaughton is a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. The 6- foot-5 senior is averaging 13.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg and leads the team with 78 3-pointers. Auguste and Demetrius Jackson round out a potent quartet of scorers for Notre Dame at 12.6 and 12.1 ppg, respectively.

The Cardinals lost a major weapon at both ends of the floor with the dismissal of Jones (13.7 ppg, 53 steals), but the team has found a way to fill the void and continue winning. Defense is still the name of the game for Louisville, which holds foes to just 58.9 ppg on a mere .381 shooting. The team also boasts of a strong +2.9 turnover margin. Louisville possesses star power both in the backcourt and frontcourt in the form of guard Terry Rozier (17.4 ppg) and forward Montrezl Harrell (15.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg). Forward Wayne Blackshear (10.7 ppg) also plays a vital role on the offensive end.

Louisville really took it to the Seminoles on Saturday, as they shot over 48 percent from the floor in both halves en route to the lopsided win. The Seminoles meanwhile, where held to a meager .396 shooting performance and turned the ball over a whopping 21 times. Louisville placed five players in double-digit scoring, led by Blackshear's 18 points. Harrell poured in 16 points, followed by Anton Gill (14 pts), Quentin Snider (11 pts) and Rozier (10 pts).