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No. 8 Louisville holds off No. 19 Notre Dame

Notre Dame v Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 04: Bonzie Colson#35 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish shoots the ball against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on March 4, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Louisville avenged a loss from earlier this season on Saturday afternoon as they were able to hold off No. 19 Notre Dame for a 71-64 ACC home win.

The No. 8 Cardinals (24-7, 12-6) lost to Notre Dame earlier this season on the road but Louisville had much stronger overall play from its big men the second time around. Senior Mangok Mathiang stepped up and finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds--including six offensive boards--as the big man provided an interior presence that the Cardinals didn’t have in the first matchup between these two teams.

Louisville’s improved interior play helped them corral 16 offensive rebounds on Saturday afternoon as they outrebounded the Irish 44-27.

Donovan Mitchell paced Louisville with 20 points as the sophomore guard bounced back from a subpar outing in a loss to Wake Forest earlier this week. Junior guard Quentin Snider also had a solid game for the Cardinals as he finished with 17 points and six assists.

Although sophomore forward Deng Adel struggled to a 2-for-8 night from the floor, he did knock down a key three-pointer to help make it a two-possession game as Notre Dame started to make a late rally.

This is a nice win for Louisville to end the regular season but this is still a tough team to get a read on as we inch closer to the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals have a number of talented perimeter options, and a solid stable of interior big men, but it is hard to say what their true ceiling is since so many of their players can have inconsistent day-to-day showings.

If Louisville makes a solid run in the ACC tournament they are going to be in position to be a potential No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. But even with that potentially great seed, it just feels like there hasn’t been very much national championship buzz for Louisville from a national standpoint, even though they sit so highly in the polls at this point in the season and college basketball doesn’t have a consensus national-title favorite.

Maybe Louisville should be happy to fly under-the-radar for this sort of thing. One thing is for certain: I wouldn’t want to face that defense in March.

As for Notre Dame, this loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Irish (23-8, 12-6) as they did everything they could to make a late push in this one. Bonzie Colson paced Notre Dame with 20 points while V.J. Beachem (17 points) and Matt Farrell (11 points) also finished in double-figures.

Notre Dame’s struggles to find scoring outside of its core four (Colson, Beachem, Farrell and Steve Vasturia) has been well-documented and that issue again came to light on Saturday when Vasturia only finished with eight points. Since the Irish didn’t have much help from others to make up for Vasturia’s off-day they ended up playing from behind to close out the game.

This loss shouldn’t be seen as too big of a deal for Notre Dame either way. The Irish are a veteran team that knows what they need to do in order to win. It’ll simply come down to execution for Notre Dame as they ideally need those four guys playing at a high level to make another second-weekend run.