LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Rebounding dominance helped No. 8 Louisville offset offensive inconsistency and create opportunities that ultimately got the job done against No. 19 Notre Dame.
Several Cardinals thrived at different times to earn the double bye they sought for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Donovan Mitchell scored 20 points, including four free throws in the final 22 seconds, and Deng Adel made a big 3-pointer to help Louisville hold off Notre Dame 71-64 on Saturday in the regular season finale for both teams.
Quentin Snider added 17 points, including four second-half 3-pointers that gave the Cardinals the edge in a back-and-forth game with the Fighting Irish, who trailed 64-62 with 50 seconds remaining. Adel followed with the pivotal 3 13 seconds later before Mitchell sealed Louisville’s hard-earned victory at the foul line.
The Cardinals outrebounded the Fighting Irish 44-27 to earn slim scoring margins in the paint and second-chance points. That meant a lot in a game featuring six ties and 12 lead changes.
“Down the stretch we did some really good things with the game on the defensive end,” Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said. “It was excellent defense, and offense, when the game was on the line and that is exactly what you want to see.”
Louisville temporarily gained a second-place tie with Notre Dame and awaits the outcome between first-place North Carolina and Duke later Saturday to learn its seeding for next weekend’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.
The Cardinals at least know they will play three games in as many days instead of a longer run to get through the bracket.
“It’s huge,” Mitchell said. “I told everybody, `Let’s win this game because I don’t want to play Wednesday. We didn’t want to go to the tournament especially on a two-game losing streak. We wanted to come out and play for Thursday.”
Senior forward Mangok Mathiang came off the bench to score a career-best 18 points with 11 rebounds in his home finale as Louisville (24-7, 12-6) avoided its first losing streak this season.
“I just went out there and kept attacking the basket,” said Mathiang, who posted his fourth career double-double.
Bonzie Colson had 20 points and V.J. Beachem added 17 with eight rebounds for Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6), which had won six straight and hoped to earn at least a share of the ACC title.
“We’d still be tied for second,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We’d just be the fifth seed. I’m going to tweet that out, `Still tied for second even though we’re the fifth seed.“’
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