LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Midway through their game against Notre Dame on Saturday, things were looking good for Louisville. They had just used a 19-5 run to take control of the game and entered halftime with a seven-point lead. Sure, defensively, they didn’t look that impressive, but the Cardinals offense put them in position for the win.
It was a critical game for several reasons. It was already an emotionally charged afternoon with Russ Smith present for his jersey retirement. It was also the start of a tough streak in ACC play, a streak that Louisville desperately needed to come out on the other side relatively unscathed if they were to save any hope of making the NCAA Tournament.
Instead, Louisville once again found themselves on the wrong side of another bad loss.
The Fighting Irish continued to get everything they wanted beyond the arc, and the Cardinals offense turned icy throughout the stretch. Notre Dame beat Louisville 44-25 in the second half and ultimately handed the Cards an 82-70 loss — their fourth in the last five games.
And at the end of the match, fans let the team know how unhappy they were with how the game – and the season so far – went. Players and coaches left the pitch to a chorus of boos from the 16,175 people in attendance.
It wasn’t the first time the boo birds had appeared this season. In Louisville’s previous home game against NC State — a game that ended in a 79-63 beating — a much less audible version erupted late in the game.
But this iteration was much more noticeable. It was to the point that even the players and coaches were reaching out to them after the loss.
“I’m frustrated too,” said head coach Chris Mack. “I appreciate everyone for coming tonight, they care deeply. They care deeply. They want Louisville to win, we want Louisville to win. Believe me, we’re trying to do everything we can to improve and improve ourselves.”
It’s hard to imagine things getting much better in the immediate future. Louisville then heads to Virginia, returns home to welcome Duke and North Carolina, then hits the road again to Syracuse and Notre Dame. Not exactly a stretch where you can identify “fair play”.
It’s also hard to imagine things improving from what we say on Saturday against the Irish. Louisville’s defense — which at one point was ranked 12th in the nation according to KenPom — had Notre Dame shooting 63.3 percent from the field and 15-23 on three point attempts.
Mack attributed this to a communication breakdown at that end of the field and his guys not being loud enough when it came to calling switches – especially in the pick and roll.
Whatever the reason Louisville finds itself on the wrong side of the win/loss column more often than fans expect, guards Jarrod West and Malik Williams said their current position isn’t acceptable. .
“I understand the frustration. There’s a standard here, and we’re not living up to it right now,” West said. “I know it’s difficult for me, but again there’s an expectation here. At the moment we’re not really in a position to say that we’ve met that expectation.”
Williams echoed West’s sentiments regarding the boos, but had a lot more to say than that. The fifth-year senior said Notre Dame didn’t do anything special and attributed the Irish performance to their lack of defensive effort.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” he said of the effort. “Especially on a night like this. It was a special day for a very special player and person in this program and in the city. I feel like we let him down.”
Williams also said a lot without saying anything at all.
When asked if the players were still responding to the coaching staff or if they had ignored them, Williams paused for a long time and shook his head slightly before responding with “I have no comment to make. for that”.
Not exactly a message that inspires hope for a turnaround. Especially considering that Louisville has to get to Virginia in just two days.
“Now, 48 hours from now, can we feel much better about ourselves and about the effort we put in against Virginia to come back with a road win?” Mack said.
We will know Monday at 7:00 p.m.
(Photo by Prentiss Hubb, Jarrod West: Jamie Rhodes – USA TODAY Sports)
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