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Friday, April 19, 2024
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Notre Dame men’s basketball routs Louisville to prolong winning streak

Irish enjoy rare stellar night of 3-point shooting, conquer Louisville 72-50

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team reaffirmed the age-old rule of three with their excellent 3-point shooting, carrying them to their third consecutive win for the first time since November 2022.

Notre Dame’s 72-50 thrashing of Louisville on Wednesday marked their fourth straight victory over the Cardinals, their longest streak since 1987. Freshman guard Braeden Shrewsberry ignited the Irish offense early with two triples, one off a nasty stepback at the top of the key and the other on the left wing coming off a strong screen from sophomore forward Kebba Njie, giving them a 6-2 lead they refused to relinquish for the rest of the game.

Defensively, the Irish sagged off Louisville’s guards and committed to playing defense inside the 3-point line. This scheme freed up Njie to roam the paint and pick up three blocks as he continued to establish himself as a ferocious rim protector. 

A poor outside shooting team, Louisville typically runs their offense through the post, relying on post-ups from junior Brandon Huntley-Hatfield to generate offense. However, Notre Dame’s zone defense and commitment to doubling Huntley-Hatfield on the catch at the low block prevented the Cardinals from running their sets out of the post. Unable to adjust to the Irish defense, the Cardinals looked confused and timid on offense for most of the first half. 

With 9:43 left to go in the first, Zan Payne stood at the top of the key in the triple threat position. But for Payne, who has never made a three-point basket in 53 collegiate games, it was more like a double threat, his defender sagging off him by at least five feet. Payne opted for an entry pass to Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. Immediately greeted by two pairs of hands in his face, Huntley-Hatfield kicked it back out to the open Payne. After taking time to set his feet, Payne launched a flat shot from behind the arc, the miss immediately corralled by Notre Dame junior guard J.R. Konieczny, who finished with five rebounds on the night.

Payne’s 3-point shooting woes extended to the rest of the team, and the Cardinals finished the night a paltry 4-17 (23.5%) from downtown. Though Louisville attempted to push the pace in transition, Notre Dame always hustled back on defense during the fastbreak, stifling all full-court drives and holding the Cardinals to zero transition points in the first half.

The Irish and Cardinals continued to trade makes and misses for most of the first half. A 0-9 Notre Dame shooting slump coupled with a flurry of jumpers from Louisville’s Skyy Clark, including two 3-pointers, cut the lead to 31-25 at the half.

Bothered by Huntley-Hatfield’s size and strength in the paint, freshman guard Markus Burton struggled to finish on drives, shooting 2-9 from the field for the first half and 5-17 for the game. Adapting to the looks given to him by the Louisville defense, Burton focused on keeping the ball moving with his playmaking during the second half, demonstrating his ability to play as a lead guard.

Finishing the game with three assists, Burton’s passing helped Konieczny (9 points, 4-4 FG) and freshman Carey Booth (9 points, 4-6 FG) find open looks and break out of their previous shooting slump. Not allowing his slow start to deter him, Burton continued to attack the rim aggressively and get to the free-throw line. Four minutes into the second half, a pair of Burton swishes from the charity stripe extended the Irish lead to double digits once again.

Clark, who finished with 18 points on 7-8 shooting in his first game back from broken ribs, continued to exploit the Irish zone defense in the second half with his superb perimeter scoring. Leading a 6-0 run over two minutes, Clark and the Cardinals began to make the Irish sweat, narrowing their deficit to just eight points with 7:52 left to go.

Immediately out of a media timeout, Shrewsberry drilled a heat check 3-pointer, his fifth of the game, to shift all momentum back in Notre Dame’s favor. After Ty-Laur Johnson failed to answer with a three of his own, Burton found Shrewsberry on the right wing for yet another triple. Not yet done making waves, Shrewsberry delivered the dagger three minutes later with another splash from behind the arc, extending the Irish lead to 22. Finishing with a career-high seven 3-pointers made, Shrewsberry positioned himself as an early favorite to win his second ACC Rookie of the Week honors. 

Though they remain third to last in 3-point percentage in the ACC, Notre Dame will look to continue their hot streak from behind the arc in their Saturday matchup with the Syracuse Orange (17-10, 8-8 ACC) at the JMA Wireless Dome. Syracuse leads the all-time series 33-22 and have emerged victorious in four out of the last five matchups.

This ACC showdown will air at noon EST on ESPN.

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